If there’s one thing writing has taught me, it’s that you learn something new everyday, and often times those new things are about people you already know. Clay Eals is one of those people.
Clay is the communications officer for the valley’s children and family services non-profit organization, Encompass. Before joining Encompass, Clay was the editor of the small town newspaper I grew up on in West Seattle, a college journalism teacher and this week I learned, also a published author. And not just any type of author. He’s the author of an 800-page biography, which is a labor-intensive, research-based undertaking. Just when you thought you knew someone, their resume gets even more impressive.
This weekend Clay is bringing his biography on late singer/sing writer, Steve Goodman, to the Nursery at Mount Si in North Bend. Goodman’s life story, chronicled by Eals’ book, Steve Goodman: Facing the Music, will be brought to life by combining the inspirational words tracing his life with his songs. Clay will lead the reading/music event about the career of Goodman, a mesmerizing entertainer of the 1970s and early 1980s.
The event takes place at 7PM, Sunday, August. 5th, featuring Goodman and Goodman-related songs performed by veteran Seattle folk musician Tom Colwell, Bellevue resident Bruce Hanson on bass and Shoreline resident Mark Myers on dobro, harmonica and steel guitar, along with surprise musical guests.
Steve Goodman is best known for writing City of New Orleans, Banana Republics, You Never Even Call Me by My Name (a co-write), A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request and Go, Cubs, Go. He was a familiar presence in concert halls, festivals and clubs and on radio and television until his death.
The singer/ song writer lived with the awareness of mortality his entire adult life, which is a major theme in Clay’s book. Diagnosed with leukemia at age 20 and not expected to live much longer, he managed to survive and thrive while privately, then publicly, fending off this fatal disease for more than 15 years. He died at University of Washington hospital after a last-ditch bone-marrow transplant on September 20, 1984.
Clay wrote an obituary/tribute to Goodman for a Seattle newspaper back in 1984. A quote from that tribute might best explain why Clay was inspired to write Goodman’s biography – and the impact Goodman’s music had on the author. Clay writes, “Steve Goodman inspired a lot of what I’d like to believe is my better self. … He brought those who knew his music a genuine zest for life.” In the book’s intro, Clay admits Goodman’s music “ruined me for any other musician. No one else has been able to quite measure up.”
Clay’s 2007 first edition of Goodman’s story sold out in eight months, and its second printing sold out in 2011. It won a 2008 Independent Publishers Association silver medal for biography. This past June, an updated third printing was released. This latest book edition comes with a bonus option to download 18 songs written and performed by others in tribute to Goodman. The list price is $39.95, but the book will be available at a discount during Sunday’s event.
I asked Clay what inspired him to take on the biography and interview 1,100 people, including Goodman’s most famous high school classmate, Hillary Rodham Clinton. He responded, “Goodman was the best performer I ever saw, there wasn’t a book about him, and I felt he deserved one. What fuels any journalist is to tell the untold story. I mean, why write the 50th book on Elvis? And I just figured that this might be the only book about the guy, so I wanted to do it right, which, to me, meant being comprehensive.”
I get it now. For those who love music, and words, sometimes there are musicians or writers that “are it” for us. I have mine. You probably have yours. For Clay, and many others, it was Steve Goodman.
Singer Emmylou Harris sums up Goodman’s impact best saying, “There are a lot of great people out there that are not household words, and you know what? It’s not a bad thing. Someone like Steve really touched you in a way that music is supposed to touch you, and the people who are fans of Steve Goodman will be fans till death. That’s really the best success you could have as an artist.”
You can enjoy the words of Clay’s book, the music of Steve Goodman and the backdrop of Mt. Si at sunset this Sunday evening, August 5th, at 7PM at The Nursery at Mount Si, 42328 Northeast 12th Street in North Bend. There is no admission, but donations will be accepted for The Nursery at Mount Si. A picnic dinner provided by the Valley Grange will be available for purchase starting at 6PM.
Click the picture below and you will realize you know Steve Goodman’s music.