Arlo Davy Guthrie (born July 10, 1947) is an American folk singer. Like his father, Woody Guthrie, Arlo often sings songs of protest against social injustice. One of Guthrie's better-known works is "Alice's Restaurant Massacree", a satirical talking blues song of about 18 minutes in length.
Arlo Guthrie was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of folk singer and composer Woody Guthrie and his wife Marjorie Mazia Guthrie. His sister is Nora Guthrie. His mother was a one-time professional dancer with the Martha Graham Company and founder of the Committee to Combat Huntington's disease, the disease that took her husband's life in 1967. His maternal grandmother was renowned Yiddish poet Aliza Greenblatt. Arlo Guthrie received religious training for his bar mitzvah from Rabbi Meir Kahane, who would go on to form the Jewish Defense League. "Rabbi Kahane was a really nice, patient teacher," Guthrie later recalled, "but shortly after he started giving me my lessons, he started going haywire. Maybe I was responsible." Guthrie attended Woodward School in Clinton Hill Brooklyn 1st through 8th grades and later graduated from the Stockbridge School, in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, in 1965, and briefly attended Rocky Mountain College. He received an Honorary Doctorate from Westfield State College, in 2008.
As a singer, songwriter and lifelong political activist, Guthrie carries on the legacy of his legendary father. He was awarded the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience award on September 26, 1992.
His most famous work is "Alice's Restaurant Massacree", a talking blues song that lasts 18 minutes and 34 seconds in its original recorded version. Guthrie has pointed out that this was also the exact length of one of the famous gaps in Richard Nixon's Watergate tapes. He has been known to spin the story out to forty-five minutes in concert. The Alice in the song is Alice Brock, who now runs an art gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
The song, a bitingly satirical protest against the Vietnam War draft, although Guthrie stated in a 2009 interview with Ron Bennington that Alice's Restaurant is more an "anti-stupidity" song than an anti-war song, 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 eighteen years old. On the DVD commentary for the film, Guthrie states that the events as presented in the song are true to real-life occurrences.
For a short period of time after its release in 1967, "Alice's Restaurant" was heavily played on U.S. college and counter-culture radio stations. It became a symbol of the late 1960s and for many it defined an attitude and lifestyle that were lived out across the country in the ensuing years. Many stations across the States have made playing "Alice's Restaurant" a Thanksgiving Day tradition.
A 1969 film, directed and co-written by Arthur Penn, was based on the story. In addition to acting in this film, also called Alice's Restaurant, Guthrie has had minor roles in several movies and television series. Guthrie's memorable appearance at the 1969 Woodstock Festival was documented in the Michael Wadleigh film Woodstock.
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