by Robert Wilkinson
Today we celebrate the 66th birthday of the son of Woody Guthrie and a singularly remarkable talent in his own right, one of my all time favorites, the legendary Arlo Guthrie.
Arlo Guthrie (July 10, 1947) is best known for his 18 minute "talkin' blues" folk song, "Alice's Restaurant Massacree," a protest against policemen busting freaks for dumping garbage ("littering") on Thanksgiving. In fact, from what I've heard on the radio, I believe it's become an "official" Thanksgiving song, where he sings of being sent to "the Group W Bench" and in-spected, see-lected, in-jected, and ree-jected by the draft board for the crime of littering. The punch line to the draft board is his statement that "I'm sittin' here on the Group W bench 'cause you want to know if I'm moral enough to join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein' a litterbug." Some kind of antiwar statement....
The song lampoons the Vietnam War draft. However, Guthrie stated ...that Alice's Restaurant is more an "anti-stupidity" song than an anti-war song, adding that it is based on a true incident. In the song, Guthrie is called up for a draft examination, and rejected as unfit for military service as a result of a criminal record — consisting in its entirety of a single arrest, court appearance, fine and clean-up order for littering and creating a public nuisance on Thanksgiving Day in 1965, when Arlo was 18 years old.
Lest you think he was a one hit wonder, he also wrote a great anti-FBI protest song called "The Pause of Mister Claus," (video below!) where he makes the argument that Santa is a dope fiend, communist, and pacifist while suggesting to the FBI in the audience following him that they probably will need to be "sent back to the factory" if anyone finds out who they are, which "is a drag for you and an expense for the government." And I also found videos of him doing the Steve Goodman hit lamenting the "disappearing railroad blues" of the train called the "City of New Orleans," the ever-great "Motorcycle Song," and his classic, "Coming into Los Angeleeez, bringing in a couple of keys, don't check my bags if you please Mister Customs man...." at Woodstock.
So for your enjoyment, here's Arlo!
In its entire genius, at the Guthrie Center, here's Arlo in 2005 performing "Alice's Restaurant."
Here's the original 1967 studio record. Here's the entire 18+ minute masterpiece of "Alice's Restaurant"
From Atlanta in 1978, "City of New Orleans"
Live in Woodstock, 1969, Arlo’s rap about the event closing the NY State Turnpike along with his performance of Bob Dylan’s “Walkin’ Down the Line.”
Here’s his live 1969 Woodstock performance (set to footage from the movie) of the iconic Coming Into Los Angeles" For the studio version, featuring some of the best session players in history, here's "Coming Into Los Angeles"
Here’s yet another live version of Arlo in 1984 talking about his Woodstock experience, champagne, and his performance there, followed by a live performance of “Coming Into Los Angeles”
And yet again, it is said that this clip is hilarious! For your enjoyment, 10 minutes of Arlo telling a great story and performing “Coming Into Los Angeles”
From 1975, Arlo performing "Motorcycle Song"
Arlo doing a great version of the bright atmosphere of "The Garden Song"
Here's Arlo and St. Willie doing a live performance in 2005 of "Will The Circle Be Unbroken."
Here's Arlo and Pete Seeger live at the Wolftrap in 1993 doing Pete's classic, "If I Had A Hammer." From the same show, Arlo and Pete doing "Midnight Special." Also from that show, here's Arlo doing "When A Soldier Makes It Home"
From the late 70s, Arlo and Pete in a performance of "Amazing Grace"
Here's Arlo performing his father Woody's iconic ballad of a better America, "This Land Is Your Land"
I found several great performances from a great show! Here's Arlo and Keith Lockhart leading the Boston Pops in "This Land is Your Land."
From the same show,
We'll close this Arlo/Boston Pops performance with a fantastic version of "Coming into Los Angeles" complete with the Pink Panther theme, the Get Smart theme, the I Spy theme, and the James Bond theme worked into the song!
Arlo doing the full version of "Mr. Tambourine Man"
A 10 minute talk on stage where Arlo thanks the narcs that made his career.
To complete this birthday celebration, here's a treat! This is an amazingly funny performance! For the 8 minute studio version with the long intro from his live album, here's his classic "The Pause of Mr. Claus." For the shorter song only, here's "The Pause of Mr. Claus."
Thanks for everything over the decades, Arlo. You really do keep the flame alive! May you have many, many more years of enjoyment, entertaining us with your poignant ballads and gentle, playful sense of humor.
© Copyright 2013 Robert Wilkinson