From The Archives: Arlo Guthrie

Apr 2, 2014

Credit Courtesy Adam Adam Hammer via WikiMedia

Alice’s Restaurant was published nearly 30 years ago, the iconic song that gave the album its name is about the goings on at a restaurant owned by Alice and Ray Brock. Around the corner from the restaurant was the Old Trinity Church, which they made into their home. Ten years ago, Kate McNally, host of NHPR’s Folk Show on Sunday nights, spoke with Arlo Guthrie at the Old Trinity Church in Great Barrington, Ma, now site of the Guthrie Center. This week we’ll listen back to her interview with the folk music icon.

Interviews like this may be the closest thing we get to an autobiography, when Guthrie was approached by a publisher to put his life in writing, Guthrie replied, “I’d love to, but I’m just waiting for a good ending.” Guthrie winds yarns on all sorts of topics over the course of his talk with McNally, including how the Old Trinity Church became the headquarters for the Guthrie Center, and what work the foundation does. He reflects on the larger Guthrie legacy and how he and other members of the family have fared living in that shadow, “when you’re born into a particular briar patch, you deal with it with your own abilities and your own skills and talents.” 

Guthrie also touches on how the music industry has changed over the decades, “the days are gone when the record company would invest in anyone, so you might as well do it yourself.” And he relishes some of the unintended benefits of the new business model, which brings fans closer not only to artists but to each other creating a community. And clearly playing with other musicians is important to Guthrie, as is the folk tradition of political activism, “the hearts of people that are unafraid to stand up and say what they think, to me is the most important responsibility that we have.”