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A Voice in the Wilderness

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness. -- William O. Douglas

Monday, May 14, 2007

The City of New Orleans - Willie Nelson

The City of New Orleans 
by Steve Goodman

Riding on the City of New Orleans,
Illinois Central Monday morning rail
Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders,
Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail.
All along the southbound odyssey
The train pulls out at Kankakee
And rolls along past houses, farms and fields.
Passin' trains that have no names,
Freight yards full of old black men
And the graveyards of the rusted automobiles.

Good morning America how are you?
Say, don't you know me I'm your native son,
I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans,
I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

Dealin' card games with the old men in the club car.
Penny a point - ain't no one keepin' score.
Pass the paper bag that holds the bottle
Feel the wheels rumblin' 'neath the floor.
And the sons of pullman porters
And the sons of engineers
Ride their father's magic carpets made of steel.
Mothers with their babes asleep,
Are rockin' to the gentle beat
And the rhythm of the rails is all they feel.


Nighttime on The City of New Orleans,
Changing cars in Memphis, Tennessee.
Half way home, we'll be there by morning
Through the Mississippi darkness
Rolling down to the sea.
But all the towns and people seem
To fade into a bad dream
And the steel rails still ain't heard the news.
The conductor sings his song again,
"The passengers will please refrain
This train's got the disappearing railroad blues."

Good night, America, how are you?
Say, don't you know me I'm your native son,
I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans,
I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

©1970, 1971 EMI U Catalogue, Inc and Turnpike Tom Music (ASCAP)



At Tue Aug 14, 04:39:00 PM MDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The lyrics begin with Good Morning and end with Good Night, a metaphor for the "disapearing rail road blues". This song is about a disappearing lifestyle, but more than that, it is about lost efficiency, giving away the economic advantage to oil, and individual autos. It is about transport by oil not rail.

At Tue Aug 14, 09:24:00 PM MDT, Blogger The Voice said...


That's what i love about music. It reaches across time and space to each of us and we are free to interpret it however we choose. Thus, no one is right and no one is wrong.

Thanks for your perspective - it definitely gave me another perspective to entertain. I never thought about the efficiency issue.

My spin on it was regarding a way of life: 'son's of poor men porters and sons of engineers ride their fathers' magic carpets made of steel....

Then, there is the description of "mothers with their babes asleep, rockin' to the railroad beat, and the rhythm of the rail is all they feel." I love those words.

Thanks for your post


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