Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Music Goes On.....

 This year marks the 100th Anniversary of Woody Guthrie's birth.  As part of the celebration of that great man's contribution, his son Arlo has made a tour of the country, bringing his songs to audiences all over.  Last night, we were thrilled to be in the audience in little Dowagiac, Michigan for the last concert of that tour.  Like us, the audience tended to be OLD fans, but with a few youngsters sprinkled among us.  

I've been a fan of Arlo's since the 60's and seen him in concert 3 times.   Last night was the best yet.   At 65, he still has that wonderful relaxed, sing/talk way of performing that carries you along the trip through Arlo's fertile imagination to see life through his slightly skewed perspective.  This time, stories of his father's music, life and history were woven through the songs.  As always, what a trip.    He told us of remembering standing at Lead Belly's knee at the age of two, and of going to a rodeo with Rambling Jack Elliott at the age of 18 and seeing the woman he'd later marry, and stay with for 43 years.

Getting a peak into Woody's songwriting style was eye opening.   The family has discovered thousands of unpublished songs, written lyrics only, with no music, because neither Woodie or Arlo ever learned to write music.   Some of the songs are now being sent out to various musicians by Arlo's sister Nora, to add music and bring them to life again.  

What a great mix of songs old and new as Arlo talked about the Oklahoma dust bowl years and how Woody felt about the shabby treatment of migrant workers, and followed that with his, "Pickle Song."  I could never figure out which I loved more, Arlo the storyteller, musician or songwriter, but that evening was a great combination of all of them.

He did break into a small sampling of "Alice's Restaurant," but promised not to inflict that whole song on us.   Said if he'd known how popular it would have been, he'd have made it a lot shorter.

On the way home, I thought a lot about what a history of our country is wrapped up in this one person.    So many of the problems that Woody's songs protested are still/again/yet with us today but Arlo can still face it with a positive outlook and song.  Those songs ring as true today as when Woody wrote them so many years ago.

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