“What’s influencing these people is a sense that he wasn’t selling anything. At times he spoke for one group or another, but never to the point of giving up on his own sense of what was wrong or right. It’s hard even these days to find an entertainer (let alone a politician) who’s not selling you anything. He saw his truth his way and called it as he saw it.”
With Arlo Guthrie and Melanie Safka, the lineup of this year’s WoodyFest features two Woodstock legends. Judy Collins, Jimmy LaFave, Carolyn Hester, Ellis Paul, Ronny Cox, the Red Dirt Rangers, Sam Baker, Don Conoscenti, John Fullbright, The Damn Quails and Samantha Crain also will play this year’s Okemah event.
Because of all the centennial celebrations going on, Arlo Guthrie won’t get to stay in Okemah for all of WoodyFest, where he will be making his seventh appearance. Still, he volunteered to play his famed songs, including “The City of New Orleans,” “Coming Into Los Angeles,” “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” and more, at Wednesday’s festival fundraiser at the Crystal Theatre, where his father used to go to the movies.
“It’s always so much fun to perform there. ... I love that towns across America (are) trying to keep their histories alive by renovating the old places. The Crystal has been around a long time. I’m thrilled it’s being used and enjoyed,” said Arlo Guthrie, who makes his home in Massachusetts.
“I’ve been visiting family and friends in Okemah since I was a little kid. Family has always been an important part of my life and that includes our extended family, the ones we know so well they might as well be related.”
Message has meaning
Even a century after Woody Guthrie’s birth, the son believes his father spread a message that still has meaning.
“My father stood with the ones who believed that everyone counted. He says it over and over again in the songs, books, letters, essays and notes; ‘I am out to prove to you that this world is your world.’ It seems to me that when you quit judging others or try to make them conform to your way of thinking, you accept that the differences we have are not all negative,” Arlo Guthrie said.
“He was one of us, not more nor less. Sometimes a rascal, sometimes a saint — he was all the things we are — the best and the worst of us. He fought the demons everyone fights. Sometimes he won, sometimes he lost. He was able to forgive his failings and not brag too much about his successes. He came to the end of his life knowing he’d done about the best he could under the circumstances. I believe that’s about all we can ask of anyone.
“And, if you couldn’t already tell, I am so very proud to be his son.”
Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman ARCHIVES