FAST-FIN-1 Finnish Institutions Research Papers

Irwin Goodman: Voice of the Common People
Sanna Sillanmäki, Spring 2009 (GB)
A FAST-FIN-1 (TRENAK1) Finnish Institutions Research Paper
FAST Area Studies Program
Department of Translation Studies, University of Tampere

The 1960s was a period of radical change in Finland, as the country began changing into an affluent consumer society. One of the most visible people of this era was pop musician Antti Yrjö Hammarberg, better known by his artistic name of Irwin Goodman. Irwin Goodman was a true protest singer. His songs were critical of Finnish legislation and the country's new wealth. His favourite subjects were alcohol, the police, and above all, Finnish taxation. Irwin Goodman was to become the voice of the common people; his famous motto was: "give the people what they want". Nowadays his lyrics are legendary; despite the nearly two decades that have passed since his death, people still use expressions from his songs in everyday conversation, sometimes without recognising that these words were sung years ago by Irwin Goodman.

It is no exaggeration to say that almost every Finn recognises the name Irwin Goodman and at least a few of his songs. What was it that made Goodman so popular? What was his influence on the Finnish people's attitudes and way of thinking in the 1960s and 1970s?

The Birth of a Great Artist

Antti Yrjö Hammarberg was born on September 14, 1943 in Hämeenlinna, a city in Southern Finland with over 66,000 inhabitants. He was Kirsti and Yrjö Hammarberg's only child (Irwin).

One could see signs of Antti Hammarberg's musical talent already when he was a small child. His first public appearance took place at the age of five, when he performed at his mother's workplace. He sang the song Ystävä sä lapsien [A friend of the children]1 . After his first appearance he decided to join the Hämeenlinna conservatory choir, and remained in the choir until his voice started to break, presumably in his early teens (Rantala 6).

Irwin's Lifelong Friendship with Lyricist and Manager Vexi Salmi

Vexi Salmi (L) and Irwin Goodman (R) in 1966
Image Source: Elävä arkisto

Antti Hammarberg lived on the same street in Hämeenlinna as Veikko Salmi, who was a year older than Antti. Later Veikko Salmi was to become known as Emil Retee or Vexi Salmi (Rantala 7). In the future these two names were regularly seen in connection with the name Irwin Goodman, because Salmi was to become Irwin Goodman's manager and lyricist.

Veikko Salmi and Antti Hammarberg met for the first time in the mid-1940s. At that time Antti was only three and Veikko four years old. This was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. A certain naughtiness and rebelliousness connected these young boys (Rantala 7). The first song that the boys made together was a teasing song about their neighbour, called Humalamäki. The song was called Kännimäen mambo [Drunkhill's mambo]2 (Irwin).

Veikko Salmi was to act as Irwin Goodman's manager throughout his career. He was the lyricist for most of Irwin Goodman's songs. Their friendship lasted throughout Goodman's life.

Antti Hammarberg: A Man With Many Names

Before his success Antti Hammarberg was known among his friends as "Ana" or "Hamppari". These were nicknames that his friends had created from his first and last names. "Ana" was a shortening of "Antti", and "Hamppari" was created from "Hammarberg". As soon as rock 'n' roll began reaching Finland in the 1960s, Veikko Salmi wanted to make up a new and stylish stage name for his friend, and renamed Antti Hammarberg "Rock-Williams". Soon another stage name came into the picture. Vexi Salmi now called Antti Hammarberg "Irving Goodman", and Antti Hammarberg called Vexi Salmi "Emil Retee". For a long time these names were used only in private conversations between the two (Rantala 8), but eventually they were both to be better known by these names than their birth names.

Antti Hammarberg's new name, Irving Goodman, had its origins in the American musicians Benny Goodman and Irving Berling. In an interview by the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE)3 in 1985, Hammarberg explained the story behind the name Irving Goodman. He and Vexi wanted to come up with a new stage name for Antti Hammarberg, which would be "something crazy". They thought of Benny Goodman, who was a great musician, and took his surname. Irving Berling was a great composer, so they took his first name. Hammarberg explains in the interview that this new name worked well, because the name Irving Goodman was a mixture of the names of a great musician and a great composer (Taiteilijavieraana). After all, Goodman himself was to become a well-known musician and composer.

Vexi Salmi, on the other hand, has a different view of the origins of the name Irving Goodman. Benny Goodman had two brothers: Harry, who played the bass, and Irving, who played the trumpet. According to Vexi, Irving was the worst player of the brothers, and he was not allowed to play solos. According to Vexi Salmi, Antti Hammarberg became Irving Goodman because in Vexi's opinion Antti Hammarberg was not a skilful enough guitarist to play solos. So, originally the name Irving Goodman was an epithet made up by Vexi Salmi (Rantala 8).

Later the name "Irving" was changed into "Irwin" in order to make it more Finnish. Nowadays this name is still widely known. Some Finns may not even recognise the name Antti Yrjö Hammarberg, but almost everyone who listened to Finnish popular music in the 1960s, 1970s, or 1980s knows the name Irwin Goodman. Often the children of these original fans "inherited" the fascination for Irwin Goodman's music from their parents, and that is why most Finns even today are familiar with Irwin's music.

Antti Hammarberg's first appearance as Irwin Goodman took place on March 12, 1964 in Hämeenlinna (Irwin).

Nasal Singing As a Trademark

Before Irwin Goodman became well-known, he tried several things with music, and also worked with Vexi Salmi in a forwarding centre in Stuttgart, Germany for two years. In Germany Irwin and Vexi met a Finnish truck driver called Paavo Peltonen. Many of Irwin's lyrics are based on Peltonen's colourful expressions (Rantala 12). Most famous of these are "viideltä saunaan ja kuudelta putkaan" [at five p.m. to the sauna and at six p.m. to jail] and "ei tippa tapa ja ämpäriin ei huku" [one drop does not kill, and you cannot drown in a bucket].

The best-known of Irwin's musical endeavours was a band from Hämeenlinna called The Depraveds. The band consisted of singer/guitar player Rauno Katajisto, Irwin Goodman, drummer Ilpo Jokinen, and bass player Harry Tawast (Rantala 18). The Depraveds had gotten some publicity outside Hämeenlinna, and they started appearing around Southern Finland (Goodman 38). In 1965 Vexi Salmi managed to arrange a recording time for the band at Yleisradio's studio. They were supposed to make an experimental recording in order to celebrate becoming famous (Rantala 18). The band recorded the songs Kuin Ferrari [Like a Ferrari] and Aurinko, tähdet ja kuu [The Sun, Stars, and the Moon] (Irwin).

At the same time, Vexi Salmi, who was acting as Irwin Goodman's manager, had been listening to the contemporary and popular music of Bob Dylan and Donovan. He noticed especially their nasal singing style. This made him think that Irwin Goodman should also adopt this singing style (Rantala 21). At first Irwin was against this, because he thought he would be ridiculed for singing that way (Goodman 38). He also defended his view by saying that he could not sing like that (Rantala 21). Vexi Salmi's humorous answer to this was that Irwin should go out into the rain and stand there in his bare feet. That way Irwin would not even need to practice, the nasal singing would come by itself (Goodman 38).

Eventually Irwin Goodman gave in, and after adopting this new style, Goodman and Salmi decided to make an album, even if they had to pay for it themselves (Rantala 21). Vexi Salmi had made recordings of Irwin's songs at home using a tape recorder, and had constantly been sending new tapes to the record producers, but the record companies were not interested. At that time Finnish record companies wanted tangos4 or Finnish versions of English pop songs, whereas Antti Hammarberg was not interested in tangos or pop songs. His music needed to be "groovy and swinging" (Salmi, Siniset 298). So, they booked a recording studio with their own money for two hours (Goodman 38).

Eventually Vexi Salmi's tenacious efforts paid off. In the autumn of 1965 Mr Erik Lindström from the Finnish record company Finndisc agreed to publish Irwin's music if Vexi Salmi could offer him a good album (Irwin). Finally, on the 27th of October in 1965 Irwin Goodman's debut single was published (Rantala 23). The single consisted of the songs En kerro kuinka jouduin naimisiin [I won't tell you how I got married] and Katkera matka [Embittered journey]. Soon after this, Irwin's second single, consisting of the songs Työmiehen lauantai [Workman's Saturday] and Kuin Ferrari [Like a Ferrari], was published (Wessman 37).

Irwin Goodman's debut single became so popular that he got a new record deal from the Fazer corporation, which had turned down Irwin's songs in the past. Fazer was so eager to get a record deal with Irwin Goodman that their production manager, Mr Toivo Kärki, agreed to Vexi Salmi's extraordinary demands. Vexi Salmi wanted Fazer to buy all Irwin's records from Finndisc, the royalties of Irwin's albums to increase, and Vexi Salmi's company, MV-Production, to be in charge of the public relations for Fazer's albums' (Rantala 28). After this new record deal Irwin's recording pace rocketed, and the hits kept coming: Ei tippa tapa [One drop doesn't kill] in 1966, Ryysyranta [Ragshore] in 1967, and Juhlavalssi [Festival waltz] in 1968. In 1970 Goodman also won the Finnish song contest Syksyn sävel with a song called St. Pauli ja Reeperbahn [St. Pauli and Reeperbahn]. The next year he won the contest again with a song called Poing Poing Poing (Irwin).

The Brand-New Style Called Irwinism

Irwin on the Irwinismi album cover.
Image Source: Wikipedia

Irwin Goodman and Vexi Salmi wanted to create a brand-new expression for their new style, which was referred to as "Irwinismi" [Irwinism]. The two men described Irwinism as a kind of casual realism, an attempt to express things as they were (Goodman 39).

When Goodman's first album was released in March 1966, it was not a surprise that the album was called Irwinismi. In April 1966 Irwinismi was the most sold long-playing record in Finland. Even the Beatles had to make way for the new star, as Goodman and his album Irwinismi replaced them at the top of the Finnish charts. In total, the album sold 3,200 pieces. At that time in Finland, the selling of recordings was centred on singles, and to sell 3,200 pieces with an album was a triumph (Rantala 34).

Censorship As a Common Problem

However, a common problem facing Goodman's songs was censorship. The albums kept selling, but the songs were banned from broadcasting by Yleisradio, the Finnish Broadcasting Company. Until 1970, Yleisradio had the practise of banning albums that were of "suspicious nature" (Gronow). The first song to face censorship was Työmiehen lauantai [Workman's Saturday]. Yleisradio claimed that the song insulted Finnish workmen, as in the song Goodman sings that workmen go to the sauna at five p.m. and to jail at six p.m. The song also implies that workmen consumed a lot of alcohol5.

Yleisradio also refused to broadcast another song by Irwin Goodman called Ei tippa tapa [One drop doesn't kill] (Rantala 42). This was no surprise due to the song's dismissive attitude towards alcohol and intoxication. The song encouraged people to drink; according to its lyrics life is dull if one does not celebrate from time to time with the assistance of alcohol.

These two were not the only songs that faced censorship. Especially during Goodman's early years censorship was the rule rather than the exception. Censorship on the other hand might have been one of the things that made Irwin's songs so popular. Forbidden fruit is always more desirable.

Ryysyranta: the Most Successful Single and the Glamourous House in Hattula

Irwin's second album, Ei tippa tapa [One drop doesn't kill], came out in 1966. The third album, Osta minut [Buy me], was released in early 1967. The public's reaction to the Osta minut album was good, and the album eventually rose to third on the Finnish chart list. But although the album sold well, its popularity was a disappointment to Irwin, Vexi, and the record company. Osta minut did not include any hits compared to the previous albums (Rantala 46). After the Osta minut album, Irwin's career started going downhill. His name was not on the chart lists, and the popularity of his gigs declined. Many thought that Irwin Goodman was history (Rantala 49).

But later in 1967 a song called Ryysyranta [Ragshore] lifted Goodman back to fame (Rantala 49). The song was recorded at a time when Finland had begun changing from a primarily agricultural country into an industrial country. This had started a large-scale migration from the countryside to Southern Finland and Sweden. The standard of living began rising, but the countryside became increasingly impoverished as the industry and population concentrated in the south6 . The Ryysyranta song was based on a book called Ryysyrannan Jooseppi7 [Ragshore's Joseph] by the Finnish author Ilmari Kianto8. Ryysyranta became Irwin Goodman's most successful single, with 25,000 sold pieces. Only about twenty singles in Finland have ever reached this number (Rantala 50).

But as there are supporters, there inevitably are also antagonists. Some people thought that the song was insulting to Finland and the Finnish people (Rantala 50). The song implies that Finland is not necessarily the most harmonious place to live. There were also poor people with poor living conditions. According to the song, Ryysyranta was a ragged cottage filled with fleas, bedbugs, and lice with a messy "farmhouse livingroom" where the family spent most of their time. In Ryysyranta people did not use the toilet, instead they used the corner of the room.

In February 17, 1969 Irwin Goodman built a house in Hattula, a small rural town near Hämeenlinna. This glamourous house was named Ryysyranta. The house was furnished extravagantly, with chairs upholstered in mink and a swimming pool (Rantala 62). Finnish people being modest, this ostentation was not appreciated. People easily identified with the poor Irwin, whereas the rich Irwin was not to their liking. As a result of the bad publicity caused by the Ryysyranta house, many of Irwin's fans abandoned him (Rantala 64). This rapid decline in Irwin's popularity was only one example of the many ups and downs in his extraordinary career.

The Ups and Downs of Irwin's Career

Irwin's career was far from ordinary. He was sentenced for drunken driving, got involved with an under-aged girl, and was convicted of a bookkeeping crime. Irwin did not understand society, and society did not understand him (Salmi, Irwin)

Irwin Goodman on stage.
Image Source: Meri Oulun Kulttuuriseura Ry

In the late 1960s his popularity began to decline. This was mainly due to the public's disapproval caused by the Ryysyranta house. In the spring of 1969, The Finnish gossip magazine Hymy published a poll on the topic "The most unpopular Finn". The overwhelming winner was the Finnish politician Veikko Vennamo9 with 38,896 votes. Irwin "reached" fifth place with 5,258 votes (Rantala 67).

Criticism by the public and the press had taken its toll. Irwin was feeling depressed from the criticism and was not interested in working in recording studios, which had a strong effect on his recording pace. Due to this, only one single was released in all of 1969. Irwin's manager and lyricist Vexi Salmi had also started pursuing his own career (Rantala 66). This sudden decline in Irwin's career was surprising, for only two years earlier Ryysyranta had been his best-selling single ever.

As Irwin's popularity began to decline, so did his lifestyle. He owed money to a lot of people and he also had to pay 50,000 Finnmarks10 to the Finnish tax office (Rantala 69). The reason for this was that in 1968 Irwin had stopped filling in tax forms due frustration over the previous year's large outstanding taxes (Salmi, Siniset 406). In 1970 his Ryysyranta house faced compulsory auction. First all movables, and then the house itself had to be auctioned (Rantala 77).

Although the press was still interested in Irwin, the publicity was not good. The press was not interested in his career and future plans, but in his drinking and other gossip (Rantala 70). However, it was at this time, in 1976, when Irwin made his second comeback with the songs Häirikkö [Troublemaker] and Haistakaa paska koko valtiovalta [Fuck you government power]. Irwin's first comeback after the disappointing Osta minut album had been with the assistance of the Ryysyranta song in 1967.

Between 1976 and 1979 almost all of Irwin Goodman's songs were composed under the pseudonym of Rudolf Holtz. According to Vexi Salmi, Irwin had to compose under a pseudonym because he was so largely in debt with his taxes. The use of the pseudonym was an attempt to save a part of Irwin's income from immediate seizure by the tax authorities as payment for his unpaid taxes (Irwin).

In 1979 Irwin recorded two albums and in the early 1980s a few singles. These recordings did not catch on: in the eyes of the Finnish people, Irwin Goodman was "a yesterday's star who had nothing to say in today's music" (Rantala 152). The melodies of these songs were mediocre; Vexi Salmi had put quantity before quality when creating the lyrics (Rantala 138). An example of these unpopular albums is Keisari Irwin [Emperor Irwin]. The songs were unimaginative, and they lacked the style and enthusiasm characteristic of the former Irwin (Rantala 131). Goodman's career was once again at stake. The audience had disappeared from his gigs and his compensation had plunged (Rantala 138). Irwin Goodman was labelled as an artist whose best days had passed (Aho 9). Some papers even wrote that "people come to see Irwin only so that they can see someone who is doing even worse than themselves" (Aho 10).

But, in 1984 Vexi Salmi suggested that Irwin should try to hit it big once again. Vexi was always the one who gave Irwin a boost when he was down. It is highly probable that without Vexi Salmi's contribution "Irwin Goodman" would not even exist. Vexi's encouragement had the desired effect, and soon a new album was in the making. However, Irwin's composing pace was too slow for their hectic timetable, so the Finnish musician Kalervo "Kassu" Halonen11, a friend and music associate of Vexi Salmi, came to their rescue (Rantala 151). Kassu Halonen becoming the composer and arranger of Goodman's songs gradually changed Irwin Goodman's music from "humppa"12 to popular songs and rock (Rantala 152).

As a result, in 1984 Irwin made yet another comeback. The album Härmäläinen perusjuntti [An Ordinary Finnish yokel] sold more than a gold record13 . But Goodman's greatest success was yet to come. The LP Rentun Ruusu [Vermin's Rose], which came out in 1988, sold double platinum14 (Irwin).

However, eventually the years of hard performing and a back-breaking recording pace combined with a drinking problem began taking their toll. In the mid-1980s Irwin lost the hearing from one of his ears. In the late-1980s he suffered from esophageal blockage and a cataract (Irwin).

What Made Irwin So Popular?

Irwin Goodman and Vexi Salmi's songs appealed to the common people. They successfully described the common people's feelings. They were about people who usually do not get songs written for them. Irwin Goodman spoke the same language as the common people; he was himself a common person. This is why the ordinary man could easily relate to Irwin and think: "Why not me as well?" Goodman gave hope to the common Finnish people. The old saying "Where there is will, there is a way" offers a perfect way of describing Irwin Goodman. Irwin hit rock bottom more than once, but somehow always managed to bounce back.

Irwin Goodman sang about the Finnish people to the Finnish people, who felt that Irwin's songs reflected the Finnish state of mind in a profound way (Rantala 74, Aho 13). Most Finns are independent people who have worked hard to achieve the things in their lives. They have not been born with silver spoons in their mouths; instead they have achieved everything all by themselves, without resorting to the help of society.

Irwin Goodman was not afraid of speaking, or rather singing, about the things that bothered him. He said what the whole nation, or at least a large part of it, thought. He did not praise the nation's leaders, but brought out their faults. For example in the song Poliisi on pop [The police is pop], Goodman sang about the influence and actions of the police. The song was recorded in 1966, at a time of protests and police intervention, and was part of the Ei tippa tapa [One drop doesn't kill] album. The lyricist was Emil Retee, or Vexi Salmi. In the following extract from the song Irwin Goodman states that one can do anything if one is a police officer. He compares the police uniform to a halo.

Irwin appealed to both younger and older audiences.
Image Source: Nuorisokulttuuri 1960-1979

Then I can do
whatever I want
Their uniform
is like a halo

Irwin made fun of wealth and convention, the strict Finnish alcohol policy, and taxes. He criticised the system as a whole. Irwin Goodman made sure that the Finnish people noticed the faults of Finnish society. Without Irwin's "help" people may not have even thought of these things, but Irwin showed them that they were not alone in their opinions that the faults of Finnish society should be corrected.

A part of Irwin's output consisted of autobiographical songs. Thus the songs were real and had their origins in real life. A few examples of these autobiographical songs are Ryysyranta meni [Ragshore is gone] and Meni rahahommat pieleen [My finances went wrong] (Rantala 79). The songs that Irwin recorded are not just songs, they are stories about transformation. The songs are almost flesh and blood, and that is why the songs have held out for decades as fresh as they were when published (Salmi, Irwin).

Here is an extract from the song Meni rahahommat pieleen. The song was recorded in 1970 and was part of the Irwin Goodman album. The lyricist was Emil Retee, or Vexi Salmi.

It seems like these things went to my head
The chairs were made of mink
I mixed beautiful drinks in a cup
I was the most influential person in the world
When one is born a guy one will stay a guy
Taxes took all my money at once
Once again at the gigs I bleat
The riches weren't my thing

This song has direct references to the Ryysyranta house and its chairs upholstered in mink. In this song Irwin Goodman admits that he became too proud and self-assured. Admitting one's mistakes and being up front is important to Finnish people. In Meni rahahommat pieleen Irwin Goodman admits that he became too cocky, and that all the riches in the world was not really his thing. This sincerity is without a doubt one of the factors that contributed to Irwin's success.

From Protest Songs to Popular Music

In the early 1970s Irwin's style began to turn from protest music to common popular music. The album Poing Poing Poing, which was published in 1971, was the last display of Irwin's thoughts about social evils. "Silent insurgency" describes Irwin's opinions at that time (Rantala 110). Merchantibility and covering a wider audience may have been some reasons for this change in style.

Although this change in style presumably had some kind of affect on his audience, it did not mean a change for the worse. Irwin Goodman's biggest hit, Rentun Ruusu [Vermin's Rose], in 1988 was an example of popular music at its best.

Irwin Goodman's Audience Was Large and Diverse

Irwin Goodman's audience covered the whole nation. The gigs were filled especially with young people, and attendace records were broken (Salmi, Vain). A noteworthy fact about Goodman's popularity is that it does not divide evenly across Finland. Nowadays second-hand bookshops sell Goodman's old albums very quickly in Tampere for example, but in the Helsinki area selling these albums requires more work (Rantala 194). Antti Hammarberg was born in Hämeenlinna, a city near Tampere, and that may be one reason why he is more popular in Western Finland.

A street poll17 reported by YLE in 1966 showed that people's opinions about protest songs and Irwin Goodman varied quite a lot. A small boy stated that protest songs are interesting and pleasing, and that he also liked Goodman and his music. Another small boy on the other hand did not like Goodman, because he was "such a bearded guy". A young woman said that Irwin's style was very good and unique. Another young woman said that it is crazy to sing protest songs in Finland, because the singers do not have a lot of information about the things they are singing about. An older lady said that young people at the least are interested in protest songs. An older man was very strict in his opinions about protest songs and Irwin Goodman. He said that protest songs are nonsense, and that only people with bad taste listened to Irwin Goodman's music. A young man thought that protest songs were just a passing phase. He thought that at that time artists had to do something radical so that their songs would sell.

As the street poll showed, there was no rule as to who listened to Goodman's music. Most of the audience was young, but not necessarily all young people appreciated his music. Also, although some older people had quite negative opinions about Irwin Goodman, older people also attended his gigs.

Goodman targeted his songs to the common people, young or old, and they were the people who attended his gigs. In the early days of his career, during his "protest" period, his audience was mainly young people. But as the years went by and his music started to become more 'pop', the audience got older. Goodman's fans have been very loyal; a large part of this older audience was in fact the same people who had attended his gigs during his early years; they had just gotten older. Nowadays both younger and older people listen to Goodman's music. There is something very Finnish about listening to Irwin Goodman's music.

The Immortal Entertainer

Martti Suosalo as Irwin Goodman
in the movie Rentun ruusu.
Image Source: Artista Filmi

In January 1991, Irwin Goodman had promised to perform at an event in Viipuri (Rantala 175). He was feeling feverish, and before crossing the border, he and his entourage decided to see a doctor. He was prescribed antibiotics and medicine for a common cold (Wessman 140). Seeing the doctor and crossing the border took more time than was estimated. Irwin Goodman was late for his last appearance (Wessman 141).

In Viipuri Irwin spent time resting in his hotel. His physical condition seemed worse. On Monday, January 14, 1991 Irwin Goodman and his entourage began the return journey to Finland. Irwin's condition went from bad to worse (Wessman 141). On the border of Finland and the Soviet Union their trip was interrupted; the whole entourage had to be inspected (Rantala 175). The border guards did not believe that Irwin was seriously ill; instead, they decided that he was just a "vodka tourist"18 . After a two-hour delay the group was ready to leave. They headed straight to Hamina where the closest hospital was situated. But it was too late. When they arrived at the hospital, Antti Yrjö Hammarberg was already dead (Wessman 142).

After Hammarberg's death, there were rumours that he had died of alcohol. People thought that a lifetime of excessive alcohol consumption and drinking in Viipuri had caused his death. But the autopsy showed that Antti Hammarberg's system was alcohol free; he had not been drinking during his stay in Viipuri. Despite the rumours, he had died of natural causes (Wessman 122).

When people talk about the immortality of deceased stars, they mean that these stars have not been forgotten. Their records are still being played, and their names are still selling. Irwin Goodman was a kind of antithesis to successful Finnish performers who had smooth and uninterrupted careers. With its ups and downs, Irwin's career was far from smooth. Other successful Finnish performers had made it to retirement in this hard field (Aho 12), whereas Irwin's career ended in his early death.

But while Antti Yrjö Hammarberg the person is dead, Irwin Goodman the artist will always live. His songs are still appreciated and enjoyed. In 2001 a movie about his career was made, directed by Timo Koivusalo, who also wrote the screenplay. The movie, called Rentun ruusu, revealed the story behind Irwin Goodman and Vexi Salmi. Rentun ruusu was the most watched movie in Finland in 2001, with over 350,000 cinema viewers (Irwin). This again lifted the Goodman legacy back to fame. Almost overnight the magazines and television once again became interested in Irwin Goodman (Rantala 188).

Even though Antti Hammarberg has been dead for many years, Irwin Goodman's legacy has picked up where Antti Hammarberg left off. Some of Goodman's songs have recently appeared in cover versions by other Finnish artists, and many other performers have mentioned Goodman in their lyrics. Irwin Goodman is probably the most popular Finnish artist when it comes to cover versions. In 1981, for example, an ensemble called Irwinin Lapset [Irwin's Children], consisting of five performers, was formed. This band has dedicated themselves to performing Goodman's old songs (Rantala 149). The Internet is filled with sites on Irwin Goodman. Many books have also been written about Goodman. The Finnish Irwin Society organizes an annual Irwin Festival. All these examples confirm the fact that Irwin Goodman has not been forgotten, and that his legacy continues his work.

Irwin Goodman had an influence on the Finnish people on many levels. Thanks to Goodman, they realised that in the end even famous people are just regular people, who have to cope with the same problems as "common" people. After a long day Irwin Goodman went home, took off his coat, and turned back into Antti Hammarberg. One can be rich and famous, but all the riches in the world do not have to necessarily change that person. The most important lesson that the Finnish people learnt by watching Irwin Goodman's career may have been that money does not guarantee happiness.

Irwin Goodman was one of a kind. Before him, the Finnish nation had not seen anything similar. His protest songs are unique in Finland. Even after his death the Finnish music industry has not seen an artist even close to him. Usually Finnish artists are well-behaved, and try to act as role models for their audience. Goodman was not well-behaved and did not try to act as a role model, yet he still became successful. Irwin Goodman was without a doubt one of the most remarkable and influential stars in the history of Finnish pop music.


  1. All song names, lyrics and quotations in this paper were translated from the Finnish by Sanna Sillanmäki.

  2. The Finnish surname "Humalamäki" consists of two parts: "humala" and "mäki". The first part "humala" refers to the plant called hops, used in making beer, but it may also refer to intoxication. Antti Hammarberg and Veikko Salmi took advantage of this play on words when they made the song Kännimäen mambo.

  3. Yleisradio is the Finnish national public service broadcasting company, established in 1926 (Yleisradio).

  4. Tango had reached Finland already in the 1910s. The boom of Finnish tango was between the years 1962 and 1965. At that time singers and dancehalls divided into two groups: to those that were for tango and to those that were against tango. This situation was most visible in Ostrobothnia, where bands' employment contracts contained a clause commanding that 60 per cent of the night's repertoire had to consist of tangos (Historiikki). More information about Finnish tango can be found in Merja Hautaniemi's research paper Dance Pavilion Culture in Finland .

  5. In 1960 up to 71 per cent of the consumed alcohol was spirits. Medium strength beer was introduced in 1969, which increased the consumption of beer. Men did the drinking in the 1960s; approximately 40 per cent of women aged between 15 and 69 in 1968 said that they did not drink (Alkoholinkäyttö). Although daily use of alcohol in Finland is uncommon, the use of spirits in the 1960s may have led to heavy intoxication, among workmen for example. For more information, see the article Alkoholinkäyttö Suomessa.

  6. For more information, see Visa Heinonen's article Nälkämaasta moderniksi kulutusyhteiskunnaksi.

  7. Ryysyrannan Jooseppi is a story of the Finnish proletariat. The novel by Ilmari Kianto was published in 1924. Ryysyrannan Jooseppi is one of Finland's most renowned descriptions of the Finnish proletariat (Ryysyrannan).

  8. Ilmari Calamnius, who later changed his surname to Kianto, was a Finnish author who lived between the years 1874 and 1970. He took part in the establishment of the Union of Finnish Writers in 1892 (Tiesitkö).

  9. More information about Veikko Vennamo can be found in Kristiina Tolvanen's research paper A Nation in Transition: The Resettlement of the Karelian Evacuees.

  10. The Finnish currency changed in 2002 from the Finnmark to the euro. On introduction, one euro was specified to be the equivalent of 5.94573 Finnmarks. 50,000 Finnmarks in 2002 would thus have been roughly 8,400 euros.

  11. Vexi Salmi and Kassu Halonen met in 1984. They have made almost 1,000 songs together. Salmi has been the lyricist for many of Halonen's most famous songs (Historia).

  12. "Humppa" is a type of fast Finnish dance music.

  13. Sales of 15,000 albums entitles a domestic artist to a gold record.

  14. Sales of 60,000 albums entitles a domestic artist to a double platinum. Platinum itself requires half of this number, or 30,000 sold albums.

  15. The original lyrics in Finnish are:
    Katso silloin mä saan tehdä
    aivan mitä tahdon
    Tuo siniharmaa virkapuku kuin
    sädekehä on

  16. The original lyrics in Finnish are:
    Taisi hommat nää nousta mulle nuppiin
    Tehtiin tuolitkin minkistä vaan
    Kauniit cocktailit sekoittelin kuppiin
    Olin mahtavin päällä mä maan
    Kun on jätkä niin jätkäksi myös jääkin
    Verot fyrkkani kerralla vei
    Jälleen köyhänä keikoillani määkin
    Mulle rikkaus kuulunut ei

  17. The street poll as a whole can be found at YLE's website at Mielipiteitä protestilauluista ja Irwinistä.

  18. A traveller, especially to Russia and Estonia, whose purpose for the travel is to enjoy and buy cheap alcohol.

Works Cited:

  • Aho, Marko. Iskelmäkuninkaan tuho. Suomi-iskelmän sortuvat tähdet ja myyttinen sankaruus. Helsinki: Hakapaino Oy, 2003.
  • Alkoholinkäyttö Suomessa. Päihdelinkki. Viewed April 9, 2009.
  • Goodman, Irwin. Raha ratkaisee. Muistiin merkinnyt Veikko Salmi. 2nd Edition. Hämeenlinna: Arvi A. Karisto Osakeyhtiön kirjapaino, 1967.
  • Gronow, Pekka. Goodman, Irwin (1943-1991). Viewed April 9, 2009.
  • Historia. Kassu Halosen kotisivu. Viewed April 13, 2009.
  • Historiikki. Suomen Seuratanssiliitto SUSEL ry. Viewed April 7, 2009.
  • Irwin Goodman. Viewed March 3, 2009.
  • Irwin Goodman: Ryysyranta. Elävä arkisto. Viewed March 3, 2009.
  • Rantala, Juha. Irwin Goodman: kehdosta hautaan. 3rd Edition. Tampere: Juvenes Print, 2006.
  • Ryysyrannan Jooseppi. Kajaanin kaupunginkirjasto. Viewed March 8, 2009.
  • Salmi, Vexi. Irwin: Rentun ruusut collection cd's inside booklet. Warner Music Finland Oy, 2000.
  • - - -. Siniset mokkakengät/Mikä laulaen tulee. Juva: WS Bookwell Oy, 2001.
  • - - -. Vain elämää. Porvoo: WS Bookwell Oy, 2001.
  • Taiteilijavieraana Irwin Goodman. Interview. 3 June 1985. Viewed March 3, 2009.
  • Tiesitkö tämän Ilmari Kiannosta? Ilmari Kianto-seura ry. Viewed March 8, 2009.
  • Wessman, Erkki. Rentun ruusu - kohtaamisia Irwin Goodmanin kanssa. Hämeenlinna: Karisto Oy,1991.
  • Yleisradio Oy (YLE). |YLE| Info. Viewed March 8, 2009.

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Last Updated 24 April 2010