Friday, July 26, 2013

Arlo Guthrie--The City of New Orleans (1972)

     I wonder what it must be like to be the child of a musical icon? Some go into the same musical profession such as what Lisa Marie Presley or Nancy Sinatra has done, but there must be an enormous amount of pressure since the father of those two ladies were true musical superstars. For Arlo Guthrie however, it was probably even more so because his father was as much a political and social icon than he was a musical one. There isn't a person that was raised in this country over the last 50-plus years that hasn't committed to memory at least one Woody Guthrie song. "Roll on Columbia" and of course, "This Land is Your Land" is a major part of this county's musical lexicon
      For Arlo, who was born in 1947, his father's influence was mostly transmitted to him through his mother and friends as Woody, because of what was eventually diagnoses as Huntington's disease moved from New York to California when Arlo was 5 because he thought his erratic behavior would be a danger to his children. His parents would eventually divorce although when he was admitted to a hospital for the last time in 1956 (for the next 9 years), his mother Marjorie would help care for him until his death in 1967.
     Arlo grew up surrounded by some of the greatest folk artists of his time. Pete Seeger, Leadbelly, Ramblin' Jack Elliot and many others. Given that, it's not surprising that from the first time he sang on stage in 1961 at the age of 13, he was singing folk. It was a perfect time for that as well as folk music was going through a major renaissance. He worked on his craft, and when he went into the studio for the first time, it was to record the album that he is best known for, the classic, "Alice's Restaurant". The eighteen minute long title track was a song which tapped into his dad's political legacy, without seeming heavy handed (in fact it's very funny). Arlo was never much of a force on the charts however, except for, "City of New Orleans".
     Written by Steve Goodman, it is a song which Guthrie makes his own. The haunting lyrics and a production that gives a real warmth to the proceedings, propelled the song into the top 20 in the late summer of 1972. Guthrie continues to record, and tour non-stop, with his blend of folk and political songs. He has also done some acting, writing and promotes the group founded by his mother, The Committee to Combat Huntington's Disease  Much more about Arlo can be found here:



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