Arlo Guthrie came to my town in March 2013 on a concert tour labeled “Here Comes the Kid.” It might seem funny for a sixty-something man to call himself a kid, but Arlo of “Alice’s Restaurant” will always seem like a kid to me, despite the gray hair. And Arlo is the son (kid) of iconic folk musician Woody Guthrie, whose music Arlo is celebrating on his tour, including Woody’s iconic song “This Land is Your Land.” The centennial of Woody’s birth was in 2012. Woody’s autobiography Bound for Glory received several Academy Award wins and nominations in 1977.
Arlo said that just like every historical location takes on more history the more it’s visited, every song takes on more layers whenever it’s played. This is particularly true of Woody’s and Arlo’s music. Folk music of old, poetry and even news clippings inspired Woody’s music, which others also performed and made their own. Arlo is continuing this tradition. He performed solo in Kansas City, but he brought with him the influences of friends, family and fellow musicians.
When I told my friend Jan that I was going to see Arlo in concert, she emailed me: “Oh, how I’d love to hear Arlo Guthrie sing ‘City of New Orleans.’ A tonic for my soul.”
The song was a tonic for Arlo, too. Before he sang “City of New Orleans” in the concert that night, Arlo told the audience that he first heard the song after a night of performing at a club in Chicago. Weary, he was in no mood to listen to any song, but reluctantly he agreed to listen to Steve Goodman sing his song for the price of a beer. Arlo promised grumpily that he’d listen as long as the beer lasted. Soon, however, Arlo forgot his fatigue as he marveled at this hymn to a train called “City of New Orleans” that traveled between Chicago and New Orleans. Arlo recorded Goodman’s “City of New Orleans” song in 1972, and it became a hit for Arlo. Goodman won a posthumous Grammy in 1985 for the song in Best Country song, performed by Willie Nelson. The song has been performed by many others, as well. (Be sure to listen to Goodman’s funny country song at the bottom of this post.)
Arlo rode the “City of New Orleans” train in 2009 from Chicago to New Orleans raising money along the route in concerts to help musicians displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Read about Arlo’s Train Tour.
Arlo dedicated his song “Coming into Los Angeles” to his wife of 43 years, Jackie. He described how he first saw fell in love with Jackie not long after he arrived in California at age eighteen.
“I saw a woman ride by on a horse at the head of a rodeo parade. I thought she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen, but she didn’t even look at me,” he said. Three years later they met and later married. Sadly, Jackie died in October 2012, not long after Arlo, Jackie, their children and spouses and grandchildren — a group of almost 20 — had traveled across the United States and Canada on a tour celebrating Woody’s centennial birthday. Jackie recorded every Guthrie Family show during the years and posted more than 250 clips on her “Mrs. G’s Videos” YouTube channel, which can also be viewed on the family’s company website Rising Son Records as Mrs. G’s Homegrown Videos.
Woody Guthrie’s song “This Land is Your Land,” featuring Arlo, Bono, Bruce Springsteen, Little Richard, John Mellancamp and many others.
About the song City of New Orleans.
The Official Arlo Guthrie Website.
Jackie Guthrie Obit.
About Arlo Guthrie and Family Tour to Celebrate Woody Guthrie’s Centennial.
What Jackie Guthrie wrote about Mrs. G’s Family Archives in 2011. (Jackie’s user name is JGuth3)
“Mother and grandmother of a bunch of folk singers! I married that wandering folk singer, Arlo Guthrie, 42 years ago.
I love shooting and editing videos. Especially when The Guthrie Family Rides Again tours, when most all of our kids and grand kids play together.”
From the concert program in March 2013: Throughout his own career, Arlo Guthrie has honored his father in song as well as in life. With the centennial of Woody’s birthday in 1912, Arlo embarked on a new solo tour, ‘Here Comes the Kid,’ continuing the celebration of Woody Guthrie’s immeasurable contributions to the landscape of American folk music.
Since childhood, Arlo was amazed by the creative genius of his father and his friends who would drop y: Leadbelly, Brownee McGee and Cisco Houston, to name a few. Not surprising, Arlo drew from those experiences and he in turn became a delineative figure for a new generation. Arlo has long paid homage to his dad with his own renditions of Woody’s songs, but of equal importance – Woody’s legacy is well defined in Arlo’s own works: in his humor, his political and social activism, and his undeniable gift for storytelling…”
In a video below, Goodman sings a comical “country” song, “You Never Even Call Me By My Name,” he wrote with John Prine, which includes all of the essential elements.
You Never Even Call Me By My Name
18 responses to “Arlo Guthrie and Friends”
I’m still stuck here. Song is on repeat 🙂
Thanks for this fascinating post about Arlo and his family. Arlo’s version of “City of New Orleans” is one of my very favorite songs. For me, it encompasses the real spirit of America. That’s so sad that his wife just passed away. Lovely to hear that they were together for so long. I’m going to look up those videos.
Wow, this is nostalgic. I remember seeing Woody in Denver in the 70s and Arlo in New Mexico in the 80s. City of New Orleans was taught to us in elementary school and I still think I know all the words.
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I’ve always loved “City of New Orleans” but had no idea of the backstory. I loved Steve Goodman’s song at the end, but then I was also a big John Prine fan. It was great fun to watch. Thanks!
Because you’d told me that you loved that song, I took special note of it and was inspired to learn more about it! Thanks!
Thanks for sharing this lovely song 🙂
Catherine, you have really outdone yourself this time! What a beautiful post and tribute to one of America’s Greatest Musicians! I grew up in Arlo’s heyday and feel a true kinship with him and his music. We need more healing and understanding, like Arlo brings, in our world today. You have done a great service by highlighting the man and his music. Please keep up your wonderful missions. I look forward to all your future blogs! Bravo! Annette T.
These are some of my all time favorite songs… although I must admit I know nothing about the singers and musicians. Thanks for an informative post. I look forward to your post on the concert you’ll attend. On another note (no pun intended, for this is quite a sour one), ignore emails from artidkc[at]yahoo, I’ve been phished this morning. Have cancelled that acct. now. My ‘Good’ mail acct. is with Gmail. Hope the spam didn’t bring you too much inconvenience. 😦
His songs always would stick in my head! Forty years is a long time for a celebrity couple to stay married, I was sad to read she died what I would call too young. (Jan’s right, City of New Orleans is a tonic to the soul)
A great back-story and tribute to a great muso, Catherine; his music was just as popular here in Australia…. It is also wonderful to learn of a ‘good marriage’ enduring all the ups and downs of the music industry…! Makes the heart sing… 😉
Thanks for a great post Catherine. I’m a fan of Steve Goodman and Arlo, and hadn’t heard the back-story on City of New Orleans. I was part of the lottery and draft for the army in college, and still remember vividly Arlo’s physical at the draft board from “Alice’s Restaurant.” Hilarious. Thanks. ~James
The Geezer is humming! Brings back a rush of “mems.” Good with the bad/glad with the sad. Great post!
I just heard on the radio this morning that he is playing here in the central valley of California….I think Stockton.
This is what I love about blogging, reminding you of people, places and things you have forgotten about. Time to dig out my copy of Alice’s Restaurant and enjoy it once again. 🙂
http://iamforchange.wordpress.com/awards-page-and-nominations-thank-you-i-am-so-honored-and-grateful/ So many have shared so much with me and I wish to share as well please accept my nominations and if nothing else know I am grateful for your sharing on your pages with us all and the time you share with me on mine.Thank you!! 🙂 Joe
Just what I needed, today – a great “return” to my youth – the best years for youth evaa! 🙂
I love all good music, Jazz being my favourite, but Guthrie’s music is in a class of its own, and kind of addictive with an inescapable hook. Great stuff!
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