Around 1971, believing he had less than a year to live, Steve Goodman approached Arlo Guthrie at a bar and asked if he could play this song for him. Battling leukemia, Goodman hoped Guthrie would record the tune — inspired by a trip from Chicago to New Orleans on that eponymous train — so his wife would have money after he died. Goodman lived to see Guthrie's version become a hit, not passing away till 1984. "God bless Arlo Guthrie," Rolling Stone reported him saying before performing this song himself. "He pays my rent."