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Steve Goodman wrote this in 1970. He wrote the lyrics on a sketch pad after his wife fell asleep on the Illinois Central train, where they were going to visit his wife's grandmother. Goodman wrote about what he saw looking out the windows of the train and playing cards in the club car. Everything in the song actually happened on the ride. After he returned home he heard the train was scheduled to be decommissioned do to lack of passengers. He was encouraged to use this song to save the train. He retouched the lyrics and released it on his first album in 1971.
Guthrie's cover in 1972 popularized the song and brought attention to rail lines that were vanishing across middle America. Many people who lived in rural areas relied on them to travel.
Goodman died September 20, 1984 at the age of 36 after a long battle with leukemia. Shortly after his death this won a Grammy in the category of best Country song, which Nelson had recorded and made a #1 Country smash the previous year. (thanks, Mike - Mountlake Terrace, WA, for above 3)
Arlo is the son of legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie. This was Arlo's only chart hit, although he is well known for his Thanksgiving day classic, "Alice's Restaurant Massacree."
ABC's show Good Morning America borrowed their name from the chorus in this song. (thanks, Mike - Mountlake Terrace, WA. U.S.A)
Guthrie and Goodman's versions have slightly different lyrics:
Goodman: "Passing towns that have no name."
Guthrie: "Passing trains..."
Goodman: "Sons of Pullman porters and the sons of engineers ride their father's magic carpet made of steam."
Guthrie: "... made of steel."
Goodman: "...the rhythm of the rails is all they dream"
Guthrie: "...all they feel" (thanks, Victor - Portland, OR)
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