Drawing from his experiences as the son of a famous father, Arlo Guthrie has created a legacy all his own with his extraordinary talent for music and storytelling. His live performances are unique and inspiring, as he keeps the folk tradition of his father alive and well, providing an intimacy with the audience that is unparalleled.
On Dec. 2, the folk singer will celebrate the life and legacy of Woody Guthrie with a night of music and stories at The State Theatre.
Guthrie’s “Here Comes The Kid” tour, which began in October and runs through May, honors his father in time for the centennial of Woody’s 100th birthday. As a child and throughout his life, Guthrie was amazed by the creative genius of his father, best known for his song “This Land Is Your Land” and his friends that would drop by — Lead Belly, Brownie McGhee and Cisco Houston to name a few. Guthrie took those experiences and became an instrumental figure for a whole new generation.
Destined to be a musician
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1947, Guthrie was destined to be a musician. As the eldest son of perhaps America’s most beloved singer, writer and philosopher, Guthrie grew up surrounded by dancers and musicians, which included names like Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Sonny Terry. In 1961, Guthrie gave his first public performance at age 13 and quickly became involved with the music that was shaping the world.
In 1967, Guthrie released his debut album, “Alice’s Restaurant,” which included the song, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree.” Too long for radio airplay at 18 minutes and 34 seconds, the musical monologue is one of Guthrie’s most prominent works. Based on a true incident in his life that began on Thanksgiving Day 1965, the song inspired a movie of the same name, in which Guthrie starred in 1969. Known as a satirical, first-person account of 1960s counterculture, the song encouraged listeners to sing along, to resist the U.S. draft and to end war. This would continue to be a common theme in Guthrie’s works, which mirror his father’s legacy through his humor, his political and social activism, and his undeniable gift for storytelling.
After the success of “Alice’s Restaurant,” Guthrie had a minor hit with his song “Coming to Los Angeles,” which was played at the 1969 Woodstock Festival but banned from many radio stations at the time. But perhaps Guthrie’s most well-known song was one written by Steve Goodman called “City of New Orleans.” Guthrie’s definitive version of the song off his 1972 album “Hobo’s Lullaby” was his only top 40 hit. Although Guthrie has never achieved considerable success commercially, he is an internationally known artist and has always preferred to do things his own way.
A worldwide following
Throughout a nearly five-decade career, Guthrie, 65, has played a wide array of instruments, including piano, six and 12-string guitar, harmonica and others. He has toured throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia, winning a wide, popular following. Aside from being an accomplished musician, Guthrie entertains audiences with his storytelling, often using tales and anecdotes in his performances.
In 1983, Guthrie launched his own record label, Rising Son Records. In more recent years, he has recorded several albums under the label, including “In Times Like These” (2007). Originally released on Guthrie’s 60th birthday, the 2006 live concert was recorded with the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra. Guthrie has created a program of symphonic arrangements of his own songs and other American classics and continues to perform concerts with different symphony orchestras. Guthrie’s most recent release was a live performance, recorded at the 2011 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
A well-rounded career
Aside from his music, Guthrie has continued to be involved with several charities, including the Guthrie Center, a nonprofit interfaith church foundation dedicated to providing a wide range of local and international services. Its outreach programs provide HIV/AIDS services, and include a walk-a-thon to raise awareness and money for a cure for Huntington’s Disease, a neurodegenerative genetic disorder that took his father’s life in 1967. The Guthrie Foundation is a separate nonprofit educational organization that addresses issues such as the environment, health care, cultural preservation and educational exchange. Arlo Guthrie, Rising Son Records, and The Guthrie Center & Foundation are online at www.risingsonrecords.com.
As of Nov. 30, the show is sold out