Many of the 1960s protest singers used those warbly voices to spread their opinions. But rather than convincing, we've always found them so annoying that a plane ticket to the nearest front line didn't sound like such a bad option in comparison. But then we've always been the "catch more flies with honey than vinegar" sort, which is probably why we preferred Arlo Guthrie's 18-minute protest ballad/comedy routine/talking blues folk song, "Alice's Restaurant Massacree." We once knew the entire song by heart with dramatic pauses, fumbles and requests for audience participation perfectly in time. Which is more than we could say about Guthrie himself the one time we saw him attempt to re-create the magic live. Let's hope he'll polish up the old ditty for his two appearances this weekend with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra as part of the Audi Pops Series.
But there's more to Guthrie than "Alice's Restaurant Massacree"--the true story of his arrest for littering and how it eventually saved him from the draft--and he's finally receiving recognition for his "serious" folk songs, which he was recording as early as the second side of the Alice's Restaurant album with "Now and Then" and "Highway in the Wind." His follow-up hit didn't happen until 1972 with "City of New Orleans" by Steve Goodman. But part of Guthrie's lack of recognition comes from comparisons to his father, Woody Guthrie, and Dad's disciple, Bob Dylan. Armed with his father's social conscience, he has never been apolitical. He's just tempered the preaching with humor. Even though "Alice" is most quoted for its funny one-liners, the theme was always the brutality of war. And he ended it with the request, "If you wanna end war and stuff, you gotta sing loud." This time he'll have an entire symphony orchestra behind him as well.
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