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Jacqueline Steiner, Lyricist Who Left Charlie on the M.T.A., Dies

"Charlie on the MTA". They wrote it for a progressive candidate named Walter A. O’Brien, who opposed the latest fare increase.

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Jacqueline Steiner in about 1990 in Norwalk, Conn., where she lived. It was during her stay in Cambridge, Mass., that she and Bess Lomax Hawes wrote “Charlie on the M.T.A.” for a local politician.,

From those first banjo licks, Bostonians know what’s coming:

“Let me tell you the story of a man named Charlie. …”

As sure as the train is roaring down the tracks, it’s the cautionary tale of Charlie, the Everyman who gets caught up in Boston’s soul-crushing subway system, whence he will never return.

Jacqueline Steiner, who died on Jan. 25 at 94, was the lyricist who conjured up poor Charlie early in her singing and songwriting career. She and the song’s co-writer, Bess Lomax Hawes, dashed it off for a Boston mayoral candidate in 1949. They expected it to fade after the election along with their candidate, who received only 1 percent of the vote.

But 10 years later, the folk music group the Kingston Trio picked it up. With a slightly new spin, the trio gave it a second life, and their “At Large” album, with the song, “M.T.A.” (also known as “Charlie on the M.T.A.”), as the opening track, hit No. 1 on the charts.