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Arlo Guthrie: Legendary Folk Singer, Story Teller, and Activist

Updated on June 29, 2015

Update 10/17/2012

On Sunday, October 14, 2012, Jackie Guthrie, the wife of Arlo Guthrie, and mother to Sarah, Abe, Cathy and Annie, left her body, in Arlo's words. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Guthrie family.

On September 17, 2012, the Guthrie family announced today that Jackie Guthrie was battling liver cancer.

Alice's Restaurant - 1967

More Than a Folk Artist

From the first time I heard the song "Alice's Restaurant", I knew there was something special about Arlo Guthrie and that I would be a fan forever. I'm not one of those groupies that follows him from city to city and I don't have a t-shirt. I cannot boast that I have seen him in concert hundreds of times nor can I say that I have a room full of Arlo memorabilia. I am just a fan who thinks Arlo is, well, one of those special people.

Arlo Guthrie is more than just a great musician and the legendary son of Woody Guthrie. Besides being a legendary folk singer and story teller, he is a father, grandfather, friend, and an activist. In my opinion Arlo is one of the most significant humanitarians and social/environmental justice activists of my time. HI wish there were more people like him in the world.

The Storyteller

Arlo is a great story teller and lyricist. You gotta admit it. No one can tell a story or write a lyric like Arlo. There is a story in every song and a song in every story. Some funny, some sad but a story in every one.

The Patriot

Arlo cares about humanity and sings about the sacrifices of our soldiers and their families. He is a patriot in every sense of the word; he is a soldiers friend.

The Activist

From the first time I saw Arlo Guthrie in concert, he has been promoting activism; encouraging his audience to stand up for what they believe. Whether the issue is legalizing marijuana, protecting the environment, or demanding change in Washington, Arlo has never been afraid to speak out.

The Ultimate Entertainer

If you aren't entertained at an Arlo Guthrie show, you aren't human. He takes real life stories and tells them in ways that captivate the audience. You really never know what Arlo is going to do on stage but you are guaranteed to get a great laugh and have a memorable experience.

The Friend

Arlo knows what it means to be a friend and honors the friends he's made along the way at his shows. I've seen him credit Bob Dylan with being the greatest writer of our time, Mary Travers for being the brave activist, Pete Seeger for pushing on even after he was banned from television for his activism. If you've befriended Arlo, you will never be forgotten. Arlo's friends live on in his stories and songs.

The Inspirational

Arlo isn't afraid to talk about spirituality. He isn't afraid to embrace diversity. Through his own spiritual growth, he has opened doors for others. In 1991 he was responsible for opening The Guthrie Center in Great Barrington, MA. The Guthrie Center is a place where people come together in spiritual service to others. It is a place where those from diverse backgrounds and beliefs find common threads that bind them together in service to the elderly, at-risk children, and those wandering souls looking for something to believe in.

The Charitable Giver

After Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of New Orleans, Arlo Guthrie wanted to do something. In 2006, The Guthrie Foundation organized the City of New Orleans tour. The Guthrie family rode the Amtrak train from Chicago to New Orleans, performing along the way to raise money and collect replacement musical instruments for the people of New Orleans. The tour raised over $140,000 in cash and collected hundreds of instruments for musicians who lose everything in the flood. This is a guy who cares.

The Family Man

Unlike many contemporary musicians who have let the media circus and fame destroy their marriages, Arlo and wife Jackie have weathered the storms of celebrity. They are still together after more than 42 years. They have raised four children, traveled the world and built a community. Some of the children toured with Arlo over the years and now, with families of their own, they continue to share their father's love of music and the road. You have to admire them. Here, in this video, three generations of Guthries perform the most famous of Woody Guthrie's songs.

Why I Wrote This Hub

I don't have many heroes but as I age, I have tried to acknowledge the people who have created pivotal moments for me. Although I have been to many Arlo Guthrie shows, I have never been to one without coming away changed. I have been changed by his humor, his love of family, his compassion for the persecuted, and the strength of his character that allows him to stand up for what he believes. This hub is my tribute to a man I admire and respect. I am a better person for having listened to his music over the years.

No hub of mine can be written without a personal story. This one is no different. Several years ago, I attended an Arlo Guthrie show in Roanoke, Virginia. It was a small venue, one that creates an atmosphere of personal connection to the performers. At this particular show, Arlo shared the stage with his son Gabe and friend Gordon Titcom. It was a wonderful show. The tour was promoting Arlo's new album, Live In Sydney. A song from this album moved me to tears. The song was titled Halewia Farewell and was a song Arlo wrote after spending time in Hawaii. Something about the song touched my soul. It felt more like a prayer than a simple song. I will share it as the closing video for this hub.

When I came home from the show, I wanted to share that magical moment with Arlo and so I created a user account on his web site so that I could leave him a message. But oh no, I couldn't just leave it at that. The fan in me kicked in and I went on to tell Arlo that I loved the new albumn. I had listened to it all the way home from the show. But, I also told him I was a little disappointed that the show was an exact (almost) replica of the CD. Even the stories he told were the same as on the CD. But trust me, I wasn't complaining. Just making an observation. I said all the right "groupie" things too. You know the ones. "I've been a fan forever". "I have all your CD's". "I've seen you a dozen or more times". And then I logged off. I had done what I went there to do.

A few days later, I get an email from the man himself. He let me know that not everyone in the world could see the show and listen to the CD too. And, he informed me that the purpose of the tour was to promote the CD. He was polite but he was assertive. And he appropriately made me feel like an idiot. He was absolutely right and he was right to tell me so.

I have laughed over the incident more times than I can count. So much for me acting like a groupie. I've learned my lesson. And today, I am more of a fan than ever. But, I am not a groupie. Not anymore. I have more respect for Arlo Guthrie than any other performer I've ever heard or seen. He is the epitome of a "real" person; a hero in my book. He is a legend and the son of a legend. Although I have not a musical bone in me, Arlo Guthrie is my mentor as a human being. He has brought laughter, tears, inspiration, and entertainment to my life for over forty years.

Thank you Arlo, for the years of music, comedy, and stories. Thank you for sharing your talents and your family with us. My peace, I wish for you!

Halewia Farewell

© 2012 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.

Read more of my hubs here.


Special thanks to Jackie Guthrie and Rising Sun Records for sharing these wonderful video clips on Youtube.


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