Arlo Guthrie recalls growing up as Woody’s son

Arlo Guthrie, son of legendary Oklahoman folksinger and songwriter Woody Guthrie, will take the stage Saturday at the 10th annual Woody Guthrie Festival in Okemah, his father’s hometown. Dozens of singers, songwriters and performers are scheduled to play the event, which starts Wednesday and ends Sunday.

“He wrote about 3,500 songs that we have,” Guthrie said of his father’s prodigious output. “He’s written so many kinds of songs ” peace songs, war songs, murder ballads, the history of things, songs for kids. I’ve always tried to get some of the more obscure songs out there that I liked.”

What, one wonders, was the impact of having the composer of “This Land Is Your Land,” a man revered as an American icon, for a father?

“It wasn’t just my dad,” Guthrie said. “I think it was my dad’s world that I was born into. You get born into not just a family, but a circle of people: family, friends, relatives. I loved it; I felt like I was on a pirate ship and we were sailing around meeting all these weird characters and having some fun with them.”

Woody Guthrie spent most of the last 13 years of his life hospitalized with Huntington’s disease, a degenerative and incurable nerve disorder. He died in 1967, just after his 20-year-old son’s first album was released.

“It wasn’t as bad as some of the books and stories make out,” Guthrie said of his father’s lengthy hospitalization. “We went to see him every week and brought the fiddles and the banjos, the mandolins, the guitars and the harmonicas, and we sat down on the grass and played music for hours.” “Jim Newsom

Jim Newsom

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