Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Arlo Guthrie - synopsis of my article 2009

Arlo Guthrie - a synopsis of my article “You Can Get Anything You Want” –

A conversation with Arlo Guthrie By Susan Cross

Forty years after Woodstock the world has changed immensely. Did Woodstock influence that change? Did the anti-war hippies, soon to be known as baby-boomers, cause the country to adjust its perspective?

Is the world a better place as a result of Woodstock? Arlo Guthrie didn’t hesitate before responding to that last question. “No question about it. We were the ones who lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis when we were on the brink of annihilation and thankfully we got over the brink and we have not had a moment like that since. We’ve had some awful moments don’t get me wrong but we haven’t had one like that.”

Growing up, Arlo had his future all mapped out. He looked forward to living his life as a forest ranger; sitting up in a tower alone most of the time watching for fires. His vision of a solitary life turned 180 degrees in the late ‘60s. Four children and seven grandchildren later, the Guthries are a very close family.

Like in other families, the kids went off in different directions, but according to Arlo, “They all snuck back. That’s probably due to my wife,” [who passed away in the fall of 2012] Arlo said. “She is the anchor of the family and she’s not a performer but when the kids were young we’d sit down and she could play enough guitar and sing stuff to get ‘em to fall asleep anyway and that was good. So it’s my wife Jackie who’s really kept the entire family together over all these years and she’s still doing it.”

Even now, all of the kids and grandkids live within a few miles of one another except for Cathy who lives in Austin, Texas. “We’re in the farther most reaches of Massachusetts up in the hills.” Arlo and Jackie are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year. “Four things happened in 1969,” Arlo reminisced. “That was a big year for me. Went and did Woodstock; went up to Massachusetts and bought an old farm, got married on the farm and then the movie “Alice’s Restaurant” came out. That was all within the last three or four months of ’69. We’re still doing songs from Woodstock, still living on the farm, still married to the same wife and we don’t watch the movie anymore,” he said with a laugh.

Surprisingly, Arlo had no problem recounting the names and ages of his entire clan. He rattled them off in a heartbeat. “Abe is my oldest, and his oldest is Krishna, he’s 18. Serena is Abe’s daughter. She stole my 50th birthday so I always know how old either I am or she is because it’s exactly 50 years to the day. She is 11 at this point. She will be 12 by the time the tour starts. Then my daughter, Cathy, she has a little daughter, Marjorie. Marjorie is about 2 so she’s not going to be doing a whole lot but she’s going to be dancing around the stage somewhere. My next daughter is Annie and her oldest is Mo and Mo is--or will be about 16 and I could have these wrong by the way. And Jacklyn is also Annie’s daughter and she’s about 8. And then Sarah Lee has a daughter, Olivia and Olivia is the same age as Jacklyn and they also have a little daughter Sophia who is the same age as Marjorie. That’s it, I think, that’s all seven grandkids.”

All four of Arlo’s children write music and now Krishna, his oldest grandson, is starting to write songs. “We’re involved in all different things because obviously we’re all different people. We don’t have a herd mentality when it comes to social consciousness. I think everybody’s very individual.” Arlo said, “All of my father’s and all of my songs were not all about social consciousness. “There were a lot of love songs, broken heart songs; got drunk once too many time songs; lost my dog songs; I mean there’s all kinds of songs but we do not neglect songs about things that are going on.”

“Some of the songs that Sarah Lee and Johnny, her husband, have just released an album of children’s songs because they think that real children’s songs, as opposed to the commercial variety of funny jelly bean characters running around are not that helpful for growing up right. So they put together a great collection of songs for kids, I mean little kids that are absolutely wonderful. I think the Smithsonian Folk Waves is putting it out so it would be like PBS or NPR was putting it out. It would not be your commercial variety. So they’re involved with young people growing up because they have young people growing up,” he pointed out.

“I don’t write as many children’s songs as I used to although I did put out a book a couple of years ago--it’s still in print, called Mooses Come Walking.” The book was illustrated by his friend Alice who is THE Alice of restaurant fame. “It’s still going strong,” he said proudly. “So we have all done some work for children.”

Family and music are the themes that define the Guthries. “We have all done some work for children. As a matter of fact the whole family got together for the first time back around 10 or 15 years ago and we put out a record that my father and mother had begun to create. It was a project that they never finished. And we finished it and we put it out,” he said. “Not just with my kids and some of their kids but with my brother and his son and my sister and her daughter and son. So we’ve worked some family stuff a long time ago. This is not new for us. That record was called Woody’s 20 Grow Big Songs. It was primarily recorded and written for kids about 2, 3 years old. That was the first time we really got together as a family and not only that, we incorporated the voice of my father singing some of these songs so it’s my father’s generation, mine, my kids’ and my grandkids’ – four generations on that one record."

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Leroy Cooper, the Righteous Brothers and Glen Campbell

As Leroy was reminiscing, sitting in that black and white chair in his living room he got that faraway look in his eyes. I knew he was visiting a special memory. Then he told me this little story.

I quit Ray’s band just to prove to myself that I could survive musically. While I was out of the band I played with the Righteous Brothers.

Glen Campbell was on the show. He was from Arkansas. Those guys didn’t even pay attention to him. He played so good we used to have him in the dressing room playing. He liked to play harmony with everything we played. That sucker would put his foot up in the locker room up on the place where he was sitting and be playing some impossible stuff on the guitar. He’s a great guitar player! Oh, he’d be eating that guitar up! Ooh, that sucker could play the guitar. He’d get wrapped up in it and start sweating.

After we were done he’d be heading to the bar.

He used to say “Anybody want to go with me?”

“We don’t want to listen to no more corny jokes.” Everyone said.

I said, “I’ll go with you.” I’d go up there and he’d be talking this Arkansas stuff.

After awhile I’d say, “I’ll be back in a minute.”

I’d go straight up to my room and wouldn't go back down. Then Glen messed around and got a hit and I didn’t see him again.

Glen was tight with Ray Charles and he used to be on Ray’s records for free, just to play with him. I was in the middle of this tight group and didn’t realize it.

When I was with the Righteous Bros it was Hatfield, the blond who sang real high and a replacement for Medley. When I left, Medley came back. I had met him before I was with the group. He was the bad boy. He used to come to Ray’s gigs.

Guys said, “Bill you’re selling all those records. You could at least buy us all a drink.”

Bill would say, "Come on over to my car" and then he’d give ‘em a beer.

They said, “Man you’re tight.”

He said, “I gave you a beer didn’t I?”

After I proved my point to myself I went back to Ray. You know, you owe it to yourself to see if you could survive on your own.

Copyright © 2012 Susan Cross – All rights reserved

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Music makes people happy--and sometimes even makes them sing!

Talking Baseball
by Susan Cross

When I attend a baseball game, during the 7th inning stretch I stand up and sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame at the top of my lungs. I cannot sing very well but I feel the song in my heart and sing it with my arms waving because I love baseball. My grandmother taught me that song when I was about 5 years old and she never told me to sing it quietly because I didn't have a great singing voice.

Now, these many years later, if a TV camera and boom mic zoomed in on me the media would laugh and say, "She'd never make it on American Idol!"

I sing in the shower, in the car and even out in public. Music is a good thing. I’ve had a vision problem since eye surgery in November and I can't see very well right now but I am grateful that my ears still work. I can still hear and enjoy music and if I couldn't I would probably still sing whether anyone likes my voice or not.

So what's my point?

I am not a Romney supporter but when he sang America the Beautiful at a rally the media ridiculed him. Did it ever occur to anyone that singing usually makes people happy? Even people who can't sing well? And, I personally thought he sang it pretty good considering he is running for office not competing for a record contract.

By the way I dance, too—much better than I sing—and I do that in public and in private, in the living room, when I'm cleaning the house--if there’s music I dance. Because it makes me happy. And I won't be appearing on "So you Think you Can Dance" either.

Copyright © 2012 Susan Cross – All rights reserved