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Arlo Guthrie Essay, Research Paper

Arlo Guthrie was and still is one of the most distinctive singer-songwriters of this century. He said, “I was born in Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY in the summer of 1947 – with a guitar in my hands (D’Addario).” Since his father was a legendary folk musician, Woody Guthrie, that is pretty close to the truth. His father, Cisco Houston, Leadbelly, Pete Seeger and many others passed on their knowledge to the young Arlo. Arlo made his first appearance at the age of thirteen (Official Oughtabiography). He attended a private high school in Stockbridge, Mass. and dropped out of a college in Montana. In 1967, at twenty years old, he appeared at the Newport Folk Festival. He performed the song “Alice’s Restaurant”, the song propelled him to instant fame. That song became the anthem of a generation (Official Oughtabiography).

“Alice’s Restaurant” protested the draft and the Vietnam War. The lyrics of this song probably make no sense whatsoever, but there is a very long story behind it. The original version of the song is over eighteen minutes long, when done with the original story. This is a shorter version.

You can get anything you want… at Alice’s Restaurant, exceptin’ Alice

You can get anything you want… at Alice’s Restaurant

Walk right in it’s around the back

Just a half-a-mile from the railroad track

Oh… You can get anything you want

At Alice’s Restaurant.

First of all, there is no restaurant named Alice’s Restaurant. Rather, it is about a woman named Alice who lives near a restaurant. Alice and her husband lived in a church that they made into their residence. There was a lot of garbage in the church and it leads to Arlo getting arrested and tried for littering. A couple of years later Arlo registered for the draft because he wanted to be an All-American kid. In the end, the Army found out he was arrested before and found guilty of a crime. He then said, “you want to know if I’m moral enough to join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein’ a litterbug.” He was then not permitted to be in the Army. After he sang the song, he then challenged anyone who is ever in that position to walk in and say, “Shrink… You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant” and then walk out. He called it the Alice’s Restaurant Anti-Massacre Movement (Alice’s Restaurant Masacree). A movie was then made, using the same name, which Arlo starred in.

He released the album “Alice’s Restaurant” in 1967. To date he has released over twenty albums. In 1986 he formed Rising Sun Records, so he could control his own music. In 1992 Arlo purchased the Old Trinity Church, which is the church referred to in “Alice’s Restaurant”. It now houses The Guthrie Center, The Guthrie Foundation, and Rising Sun records (D’Addario). It is a place for all kinds of community service, especially for the aid of abused children and those suffering from HIV/AIDS. In 1995 he co-wrote an award-winning children’s book with Alice Brock, yes the “Alice” (Rolling Stone). On the 30th anniversary of the massacree he released “Alice’s Restaurant: The Massacree Revisited” which was recorded live in the church. Arlo’s latest album is “Mystic Journey.” It is his first recording of original songs in a decade. The album is co-produced by Arlo and his son Abe, who is twenty-six (Official Oughtabiography). They have been touring around the world. From 1994-1996 Arlo had recurring roles in several different network television programs.

His many songs have defined a generation and led that generation through many hard times, such as the Vietnam War. Because of his distinct song-writing skills his career is still going after almost forty years, and it does not show signs of slowing down any time soon.


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