Arlo Guthrie: A gathering of Guthries

By Darren Young

Arlo Guthrie is definitely a family man. He lives by traditional values handed down to him by his father, Woody Guthrie, the man behind the folk classic “This Land is Our Land.” Over the past year, Arlo has been on the road with members of his family on the Guthrie Family Legacy Tour carrying on his father’s legend through song.

“He blazed a trail for sure,” says Guthrie. “I think we sort of try to continue from where he left off, but we are also not retreading old ground.”

Guthrie wants to make people aware he is not just slipping his feet into his father’s boots. Being part of the Guthrie Legacy Tour means there are also songs by the rest of the family and Arlo himself peppering the set list. By including songs from his kin, Arlo covers a vast array of music the Guthrie family has offered the world.

“I wanted to include the others’ songs,” says Guthrie. “To see it move through the generations gives you a good feeling of how things are. Seeing it in one sitting gives you some insight of what it means to be in this family.”

Guthrie has been holding a magnifying glass up to his family for the past year now, and is ready to put the Legacy tour behind him. He hasn’t grown weary of touring with his family, but rather, is excited to hit the road again on his own. Even so, there have already been talks of another tour involving Guthrie family members some time down the road.

“We’re trying to round the whole family up together for another bigger tour in the future,” says Guthrie. “What new invention of a tour name can we come up with to get us to do a show together?”

Despite his heavy schedule and involvement in all of these tours, Guthrie still finds time to work with not-for-profit organizations. In 1991, he purchased the church where the movie Alice’s Restaurant was shot, and soon after converted it to the Guthrie Center. The Guthrie Center is a place where people of all religions may meet and unite under the principle that there is one truth and many ways to access it.

“I bought the church about 15 years ago,” says Guthrie. “We have two things we do there: an interface church foundation and an educational foundation. We run programs that are some of both or one or the other of those broad categories, and have free community lunches every week.”

Guthrie admits his not-for-profit work actually ends up becoming not-even-breaking-even work, but he loves giving to the community. The Guthrie Center is a significant representation of the musician’s generosity and compassion for others. Guthrie is not just a family man, he is a people person, and will carry on his family’s legacy so long as he has the strength to carry the torch.


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