Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Folk singer Arlo Guthrie talks OWS; Live at the FAC tomorrow


American folk singer and outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War Arlo Guthrie won’t be alone when he comes to the Fine Arts Center tomorrow night – 16 members of the Guthrie family will be with him on stage.

Guthrie burst onto the scene in 1967 with the release of “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” an 18-minute song ridiculing the Vietnam War draft. Since then, he’s soldiered on in his role in civil protests, appearing most recently at the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in New York on Oct. 21, leading the protesters in time-honored rally anthems with fellow folk singer Pete Seeger.

In a phone interview with the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, Guthrie said the Occupy protests are the most exciting type of thing to happen since the major Vietnam War protests ended in November of 1969.

Guthrie said that the civil rights, anti-war, environmental, educational and women’s rights movements were more interconnected 40 years ago than people today may realize.

“A new paradigm shift had taken place in the ’60s and a lot of young people felt as if the world was headed in a crazy direction and it needed to be reset. All of these things were part of that dynamic,” said Guthrie. “The lack of that over the last 30 years, to me, is fairly stunning.

“The Occupy movement is not just about banks or finances, it’s really bigger and broader than that and the truth is that you can only address one of them at a time,” he said.

“To me, another paradigm shift is taking place that’s lost on most people,” Guthrie continued. “If you notice, the Occupy movement doesn’t bother to mention Wall Street nearly as much as it did in the beginning, and that’s because we’re becoming aware of the different tentacles that are wrapping around all of these different things.”

“Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” tells the true story of Guthrie’s Thanksgiving Day arrest for littering in 1965 on his way to the Stockbridge, Mass. dump. His friend Alice, the song’s namesake, lived in the bell tower of a church, but hadn’t taken out the trash in nearly a year.

To make room for Thanksgiving dinner, Guthrie had loaded up Alice’s garbage and driven it across town, but he disposed of it on a rural hillside after discovering that the dump was closed. This minor blemish on his criminal record ended up exempting him from the draft.

As the son of legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie, Arlo Guthrie’s proclivity for storytelling was fostered from an early age in the constant company of folk musicians. He described storytelling as the valuable ability to “create out of everyday reality the archetypical myths that everyone in the future can relate to.”

Guthrie added his belief that “everyone learns from their own life experience. People like myself learn more from other people, so I’ve spent my life meeting and hanging out with [those] people.”

And Guthrie said he’s seeing that today in Boston, New York and the other cities around the globe where tens of thousands continue to gather in Occupy protests.

“We’re seeing young people meet each other, discover each other and discover the power that they have to affect a lot of different changes on a lot of different issues,” he said.

“To me this is the most exciting thing to have happened since the 1969 anti-war demonstration that took place in November. That was the last big event that I participated in,” Guthrie said.

Guthrie comes to the Fine Arts Center Concert Hall tonight at 8 p.m. for “The Guthrie Family Rides Again,” the family’s first on-stage reunion in over a year. The event is an Arts Give Back event, so patrons are asked to bring a non-perishable food item for the Amherst Survival Center. Tickets for Five College students are $10.

Brian Canova can be reached at [email protected].

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