A happy birthday or a belated happy birthday
June or July?
Sources agree on the year, 1947, sources disagree on the date: June or July 10. Arlo's own site only uses the year. I suppose once one approaches their eighth decade, a month really doesn't matter. Growing up the child of an American icon likely has both its pros and cons. Name recognition from the start. Name recognition from the start. Many Americans associated the name Guthrie with Communism at a time when the Cold War to defeat the Red Menace was still at its height.
Friends of his father, Woody, friends like Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert, Fred Hellerman and Lee Hays (The Weavers), Leadbelly, Cisco Houston, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee were part of Arlo's early life, became a part of Arlo's early life. Arlo was also one of the many young artists who gravitated to Greenwich Village's folk scene.
For many, myself included, our first encounter with Arlo Guthrie was hearing "Alice's Restaurant." It came at a perfect time: anti-Vietnam War fervor peaking, anti-Establishment in tone, and simply a great story. For many of those same listeners, Thanksgiving has meant listening again to Arlo's masterpiece as much as watching the Detroit Lions play. The song also likely played a big part in his invitation to the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. He didn't sing "Alice's Restaurant" that misty night, but he did declare that the "NY Thruway was closed!" Not true, but a Woodstock myth too good to not hold onto.
City of New Orleans
And as funny and reaffirming as "Alice's Restaurant" is, "City of New Orleans" is comforting and nostalgic. A yearning for the slower times and relaxed travel by train.
Guthrie continues to tour and perform regularly. Santa Claus locks have replaced his curly dark topping, but his sense of humor, welcoming smile, and activism remain as strong as ever. Guthrie continues to be a beacon for what is best about us.
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