The Dutchman

April 4, 2011 • 9:58 am

This is a lovely but little known song about an old Dutch couple.  It was written by Michael Peter Smith, and the best version, here, is by Steve Goodman. I saw him perform it around 1974 at a coffeehouse in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Goodman, born in 1948, was a Chicago native, a huge Cubs fan, and a semi-major figure on the 70s folk scene. He’s most famous for having written “The City of New Orleans,” a big hit for Arlo Guthrie.

Goodman died of leukemia when he was only 36. One of his last songs was “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request“.

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20 thoughts on “The Dutchman

  1. Hey, I remember that song. Wonderful storytelling.

    I saw Steve Goodman in a coffee house in DeKalb in 1977 or so. One of my favorite folkies. He is also known in Chicago for “Lincoln Park Pirates”.

  2. “Miss Beverly Jones had a Ph.D. in physics
    and she went to town to look for some work.
    Everyplace she applied they said that she was qualified
    To be a secretary, or a clerk
    The word got out on the day she born
    But she was twenty years gettin’ the news
    And the I-Don’t-Know-Where-I-Goin’
    But-I’m-Goin’-Nowhere-In-A-Hurry Blues.”

  3. This is an brilliant song. Never mind the wrong information in it (for the author never was, and apparently so, in the Netherlands). As far as love-songs go, this tops the list. I do prefer the Clancy Brothers’ version the most.
    It s just beautiful.

  4. one of the great songwriters of our time, lost too young.

    Eloquent song, but I find it painfully sad as well.

  5. Truly a great song by a beautiful human being. Michael Smith wrote some the best songs that I grew up listening to, mostly recorded by other artists such as Goodman. Do yourself a favor and check out some of his other compositions, alternately haunting and hilarious:

    Spoon River
    On the Last Day of Pompeii
    Hobo’s Mandolin
    Dead Egyptian Blues
    Sister Clarissa
    Crazy Mary
    Sdrawkcab Klat (Talk Backwards)

    He is still around and playing music.

    Full disclosure: I know he’s a great guy because he gave me permission to release an adaptation of that last one.

  6. The Man who wrote the Perfect Country & Western Song — at least perfect once David Allen Coe talked him into adding the verse about gettin’ drunk & momma & prison & pick-up trucks & trains & gettin’ caught in the rain….

  7. Good memories. Saw him at the Cornell Folk Festival, 1974 I believe; other performers included John Prine, Leon Redbone, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee…

  8. The first time I went to Wrigley Field (I was 40) I teared up like a little kid. I had known that Goodman occasionally sang “Take Me Out to The Ballgame” during the stretch, and even though it was after his death I could hear him singing it.

    I can’t recommend enough Clay Eals’ biography of Goodman. I had corresponded with Eals a bit after I had featured “The Dutchman” on my blog. A genuine fan, Eals has done well by Goodman, a book by a mussician on the life of a musician.

    If you want to hear a song that will tear you up, listen to the live version of “My Old Man” performed by John Prine at the benefit concert following Goodman’s death.

    Goodman died too young.

  9. I loved this song for many years, ever since I heard it performed by the folk duo Blair Hull and Jim Roche at a college coffeehouse back in the 1970’s. I still have a cassette tape air-check of them singing “The Dutchman” live, recorded from Albany (NY) public radio from those days, and can play a rough version of it on guitar. This kind of music was the soundtrack to my formative years. Thanks for the memories!

  10. A favorite song for sure. I have always interpreted it as an old man and his daughter. A wonderful salute to those who care for our elders. Do others hear it that way?

    1. Yes, I think I’ve always thought of it as an old man with a younger companion. Not necessarily his daughter, but not his wife.

  11. I agree that this is a beautiful, haunting song. I have always thought of it as a father and daughter, or brother and sister. The line where she “sees her unborn children in his eyes” speaks to me – she dedicated her adult years to caring for this man. Any other thoughts?

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