Arlo Guthrie Continues His Family’s Legacy With His Re:Generation Tour
By Doug Hall, Contributing Writer, November 9, 2017
Anyone familiar with the roots of American folk music, would instantly recognize the opening lyrics to “This Land Is Your Land” (1944) by Woody Guthrie – the father of folk music and singer, writer, traveling troubadour, political protester, people’s poet and philosopher for the forgotten, down trodden and marginal America of the 1930s and 40s. The same familiarity surrounds another song ballad that in the 1960s became the most popular anti-war anthem to be penned by any contemporary songwriter of the politically and socially turbulent “sixties”. Woody Guthrie’s son, Arlo, released “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” in 1967, which through radio air-play and album sales, almost immediately became an iconic statement for his generation’s anti-Vietnam War movement. Like his father, Guthrie’s image would become associated with the social and political generation of his times. With floppy cowboy hat, a head of unruly curly shoulder-length hair, a whimsical grin, he was a storyteller with a song – leaning-over his guitar, telling it with dead-pan insight, and always humor. Even in an era crowded with musical talent, with the Woodstock Musical Festival in 1969 (where Guthrie would perform “Coming Into Los Angeles” to chart topping success), and the show-stopping performances by Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, Guthrie would still become an icon himself.
With a catalog of other songs and releases, Guthrie would set the standard for the singer-songwriter genre (particularly Hobo’s Lullaby, 1972; Amigo, 1976; and his definitive version of Steve Goodman’s City of New Orleans, 1972). Inheriting his father’s stubborn non-conformist streak, he would also later demand creative independence, leaving the major record label system in 1983.
Now, a generation later, with a family of his own, Arlo Guthrie has taken to the road and stage with his children Abe Guthrie and Sarah Lee Guthrie with the Re:Generation Tour which kicked off this fall. The Arlo Guthrie website speaks to the message of the tour, “Woody (Guthrie) built a legacy that the Guthrie family continues to preserve with their leading voices in the current revolution against oppression and in-justice.” In my recent interview with him, Guthrie spoke about the challenge to be heard, musically, and the need to deliver his message of community through the power of song on-stage — carrying on a tradition. Though he reminds his audience that you have to look a little harder, “songwriters and their songs are there as they’ve always been, but you won’t hear about it (local and regional folk acts) unless you get out and go see some live performers, wherever they’re performing – there is an audience that supports them.”
But he also admits with a verbal nod to the current craze for pop music and social media driving its fan base, to the detriment of musical variety, “the mass media that benefited from works of myself and others is no longer promoting those kinds of artists or material.” Arlo’s father travelled the road and country throughout his active political and social life, and only later enjoyed the benefits of local radio airwaves to get his music recorded, and have his humanitarian philosophy heard. Clearly, Arlo Guthrie sees a moment in time, at age 70, to do the same in spirit, with his family on stage, with an aspiration “to represent hope for the working families across this great nation” and from a more personal standpoint, sharing with family, “I’m just happy to be able to accompany them on stage and add my own sense of support.”
In keeping with putting words into action and inspired by his parents’ activism, in 1991 Guthrie purchased the old Trinity Church building in Barrington, MA and established The Guthrie Center. This not-for-profit interfaith church foundation is dedicated to providing a wide range of local and international services, as well as The Guthrie Foundation, a separate not-for-profit educational organization, addressing issues such as the environment, health care, cultural preservation and educational exchange. This is the very Trinity Church where the song “The Alice’s Restaurant Masacree” began and where the movie Alice’s Restaurant was filmed, and continues to service the local and international community.
Clearly, the pride of a father, and the warmth of the legendary folk troubadour is conveyed as he takes the stage with family and friends in his current Re:Generation Tour, sharing again with audience members both familiar and new. The tour will no doubt include some timeless ballads from both Woody and Arlo, but will also be introducing the audience to the next generation of Guthrie original voices, compositions and perspectives, represented by his daughter Sarah Lee and his son Abe Guthrie. A circle unbroken, and simply some togetherness, as Guthrie fondly reflected about being on stage with family, “the road continues to beckon and the kids, with kids of their own, are hearing the call of their own thoughts, and I think they’re having as good a time with all this, as I am.”
Don’t miss this special opportunity to embrace the Guthrie songbook, and sing along and listen to a legendary folk singer tell some stories and share the moment and music of his times.
Arlo Guthrie and his Re:Generation Tour will be at The Cabot, 286 Cabot Street, Beverly, MA on Friday, November 17; for more information and to purchase tickets click here. He will be appearing at Carnegie Hall in NYC on November 25; for more information and to purchase tickets click here.
For a complete listing of the upcoming cities and dates of the Re:Generation Tour performances click here.
Cover: Arlo Guthrie; Dennis Andersen Photography.