Three generations of social and musical change run in the Guthrie family, and Arlo Guthrie stands dead center of that line. Arlo is on tour with his children Sarah Lee Guthrie and Abe Guthrie on the Re:Generation Tour this fall, and they will travel across the country through the spring of 2018, continuing the Guthrie family tradition of opposing of oppression and injustice.
Elmore Senior writer Gene Knapp had a one-on-one with Arlo, and asked the artist/activist about working with the family, and sharing values. See Arlo’s surprising answers.
Elmore Magazine: Your lifetime of music has influenced your kids, but how have their tastes and their experiences influenced you and your music?
Arlo Guthrie: Each of my kids has their own musical sensibilities, and they’re quite different from mine and even each other. Their kids have their own ideas of what is relevant. It’s not that different from what it’s like working in a band where every musician brings their own tastes to the group. So I (like every real musician) don’t think too much about it. We just have to trust that other people have a talent that is trustworthy, and can add their own ideas without distorting the main character. I trust my kids most of the time, and when I don’t we work on it.
EM: How much has your father’s music and his activism influenced your kids, even though they never got to meet him?
AG: They all came into this world in the same briar patch, as it were. Each has their own inheritance in their blood. I see parts of my wife, Jackie and I in each of them. And I see parts of my parents in myself and my siblings. It’s like branches on a tree, they’re all separate but belong to the same plant.
EM: Is there anything these days that motivates you in a similar way to the events that motivated you 50 years ago? Are they the same events that weigh on your kids?
AG: I’m old enough to believe that as far as human nature goes, there’s not much different now than from thousands of years ago. People are pretty much the same. Therefore the struggles we endure are not that dissimilar from what our ancestors were dealing with. It’s the same old stuff – injustice, greed, power, hunger and beliefs and all the other stuff. The question seems always to be what to do about it. Eventually you end up doing the best you can, which is all anyone has ever done.
EM: As a college student, when you released “Alice’s Restaurant,” I was enamored, excited, and moved by that song as well as much of your later work. Of all of your songs, which one would you say has the most meaning for you?
AG: I was basically a college-aged kid myself when I released Alice’s Restaurant. It was about the absurdity I witnessed in real life, in other words, it wasn’t something I made up. I just told it in a way that put a smile on the faces of those I was trying to entertain. Since then I’ve written hundreds of songs, a few based on reality, some from dreams, others from where ever inspiration seemed to be lurking. No one of them means everything to me, so it’s more like some of them mean more than others. But, I haven’t had the time or inclination to put them in any order.
EM: How is touring with your family different from touring with a band?
AG: You can always fire the band.
To find where the Guthries will be playing near you, click HERE