You know it’s a bleak scene when your team’s victory song makes “Chelsea Dagger” sound like “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The Blackhawks’ celebration soundtrack seems straight-up nuanced and sophisticated when compared to the dopey, hokey strains of “Go, Cubs, Go.”
Chicago-born folksinger and songwriter Steve Goodman wrote “Go, Cubs, Go” in 1984, the same year he died of leukemia at age 36. Over the years his music has been recorded by an impressive cast of singers, including Willie Nelson, Arlo Guthrie, and Joan Baez. In 1985 he won a posthumous Grammy for Nelson’s recording of his song “City of New Orleans.” It’s a great tune, but somehow it’s not what defined Goodman’s legacy. That would be “Go, Cubs, Go.”
“Go, Cubs, Go” is a lame, deflated stab at a rallying cry, its neutered Bo Diddley beat about as rousing as a nursery rhyme. But it’s not just plain old bad—it’s shitty, stick-in-your-head bad, like “99 Bottles of Beer.” Hear its flaccid, annoying chorus once, and it’ll torture you for the rest of the day. Sure, when it comes to professional sports, baseball is pretty wholesome—most people aren’t trying to listen to Slayer at Wrigley. But “Go, Cubs, Go” is about as edgy as a Jell-O mold.
By the 1990s “Go, Cubs, Go” had found its rightful place: in relative obscurity. But when the Cubs started winning more frequently over the last few years, this poor paean crept back into the collective fan consciousness. And with the team’s 2016 World Series victory, the song became a dreadfully inescapable part of Chicago life.
Can we hope that “Go, Cubs, Go” will fade back into obscurity and/or be replaced by a more stirring anthem? I’m not holding my breath—I recently saw a truck with a PA in its bed creeping down Chicago Avenue, blaring the song at an obscene volume. v