Arlo Guthrie, Children to Perform in Millville for Mid-Week Treat May 9Last Edited:
Although it has gone through a variety of incarnations over the centuries, protest music is alive and important as ever today. Arlo Guthrie, who performs at the Levoy Theatre on Wednesday, May 9, has been one of the pre-eminent anti-establishment voices over the past 50 years.
Arlo Guthrie’s father, Woody Guthrie, pioneered the American folk-music protest singing style—captured on his groundbreaking 1940 album Dust Bowl Ballads—that was later emulated by Bob Dylan, sparking a folk music revival in the 1960s. Along with players such as the late Pete Seeger, Cisco Houston, Huddie Ledbetter (“Leadbelly”), and, later, Dylan, Woody Guthrie is one of the most important and influential artists in American folk music and his
spirit will be in the house in New Jersey next week.
In 1967, the year Woody Guthrie died (after suffering for years from Huntington’s disease) one of his eight children, Arlo, who was 20 at the time, released his debut album. Including the epic anti-establishment song “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” the album, Alice’s Restaurant, has since become a classic, and the folk-music troubadour, now 70, has been carrying his father’s torch—on the road—ever since. (Actually, Arlo Guthrie, who was born in Brooklyn, had been playing around the East Coast for years before he recorded his first album.)
Even if you’ve never heard the 18-minute song, you’ll want to head down to the Levoy on Wednesday because Arlo is bringing his own children—Sarah Lee Guthrie and Abe Guthrie—and they’ll be playing and sharing songs together. On what is being called the Re:Generation Tour, the Guthrie family plays a concert intended for all (ages) to enjoy.
Especially if you swim against the grain as the Guthries do.
The man who once said, “If you want to end war and stuff, you gotta sing loud,” Arlo Guthrie is an outstanding songwriter and performer in his own right. He’s built an impressive recording and performing career for himself over the past 50-plus years—and he’s also bringing one of Woody’s dreams to fruition.
If you want to end war and stuff, you gotta sing loud.
The father of protest music hoped one day to have a family large enough to travel the land and “sing songs to the people,” according to Arlo Guthrie.
On its current Re:Generation Tour—which picks up again in the fall after the current leg winds down on May 20 in Delaware—the Guthrie family has been on the road since February. So expect the New Jersey stop, in addition to being ever-so-timely with all that’s going on in the nation and the world, to be tight and together.
A press release for the tour informs that “Woody built a legacy of activism that the Guthrie family continues to preserve with their leading voices in the current revolution against oppression and injustice.
“The Re:Generation Tour gives voice to the common folk with their characteristic honesty and humor through the power of community and song. Arlo and the Guthrie family aspire to represent hope for working families across this great nation.”
Following a stretch of shows in California last month, Guthrie answered a few questions from Haleiwa, Hawaii, where he was taking a two-week break from the road.
(ABOVE: A vintage photo of Arlo taken by Henry Diltz.)
If your father was around today, what sort of songs do you think he might be writing and singing?
Without trying to sound too fuzzy, I think the spirit of my dad is around today. It comes through the songs that are popular without getting much attention from the industry side of music. They’re the ones young people share with each other, without trying to become radio hits, or money makers. They’re the songs that help you feel good about the things you are doing to make the world a little better for everyone.
What is your opinion about the protests that we’ve witnessed throughout the country (and world) in recent years, especially the much-covered gun-law marches by student activists?
As far as I’m concerned, it’s always a good idea to suspect and question authority. I began my public life at the age of 18 poking fun at institutions that had questionable ideas—“Alice’s Restaurant.” And I’ve been a supporter of people (especially young people) when they are motivated enough to participate in demonstrations and marches.
How many guitars do you have? How many guitars do you travel with?
I haven’t counted the number of instruments I have. Probably a dozen or so all together, including fiddles, mandolins, dulcimers, autoharps, banjos, and of course guitars, and pianos. I travel with about four guitars, and a keyboard.
How many years have you been on the road?
I’ve lived most of my life, since I was about 20, on the road. I’m 70 now.
How does it feel to be the son of a man who inspired Bob Dylan to become a songwriter? Have the two of you ever talked about your dad and how much he meant to Bob?
I guess it’s come up briefly decades ago, mostly just in passing. We never had a sit-down conversation about that kind of thing. And I haven’t spoken with him in years.
You’ll be back in the Garden State for a show in Millville at the Levoy Theatre in May. You’ve been playing the South Jersey area for a long time. Do you dig it down here?
Frankly, the Ocean City Music Pier was always a favorite gig for the whole family. We haven’t done it for years, and I don’t even know if it’s still there. But, every time that gig would come around, suddenly everyone in the family thought it would be a good time to join me on the road. The last time we were there was 2012 and we did a show with the entire family. That was fun!
Tell us about the Re-Generation Tour; where does the name come from?
We had to call it something, and this seemed like a good idea as we are doing songs from generations of Guthries—my father, myself, and my offspring, and somewhere their kids had a hand in writing some of the material. Thus the name.
What can people expect at the show?
The show is part of a big tour we’re currently on called “Re:Generation Tour” with my son, Abe (vocals and keyboards), daughter, Sarah Lee (vocals and stringed instruments) and our buddy Terry Ala Berry (vocals, drums and percussion). We’re having a great time swapping songs back and forth throughout the evening. We’re doing a lot of our own material and songs by others as well.
As Vanity Fair has put it, “The Guthries are the first family of American folk. They practice what Woody preached.”
Arlo, Abe and Sarah Lee Guthrie perform at the Levoy Theatre Wednesday, May 9, 7:30 p.m. For tickets, visit levoy.net or call 856-327-6400.
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