By Patricia Lieb
Appeared in the Daily Journal, Kankakee, IL, Oct. 14, 1985
At Union Station in Chicago, the southbound Amtrak -- the one they call The City Of New Orleans --fills up quickly. There are city officals, photographers and reporters -- people who came all the way from Kankakee just to ride this train back.
And, with good reason: To greet Arlo Guthrie and accompany him to Kankakee, where he would give his first concert in the town he made famous in song.
Guthrie is quite a man. Still his warm, pleasing manner comes through clearly as he chooses a seat in the club car that was reserved for this special occasion.
This is his first ride on The City Of New Orleans, which passes through Kankakee in both the song of that name and in fact.
Traveling with him is his 18-year-old son, Abraham, and an artist.
Arlo is dressed in jeans, a long-sleeved, blue shirt and a short, tan trench coat belted at the waist. He wears tennis shoes, a pair of red checked socks, and an Amtrak hat that someone gave. His thick, shoulder-length, curly hair is graying.
"My son Abraham," he says, "is playing with me this tour."
Music, he says, has always been a way of life for his family. Although his father, Woody, took sick when Arlo was only six-years-old, and was ill until he died 15 years later, the Guthrie clan was the "singingest, dancingest family who ever lived."
Arlo saw the movie, "Bound For Glory," just once. It was supposed to be a recall of his famous father, but, "I didn't like the movie. It was a combination of a bunch of ideals that I didn't think flowed very well together, and after seeing the movie I don't know if I knew anymore about my dad than I did to begin with. And I don't mean, just by being his son, I mean for anybody. It (the movie) sort of gave the impression that he just ran around a lot and sang in freigh trains and such."
Like his father, Arlo has been involved in social movements.
"Nowadays you get involved in some things but they are not called protests anymore. Anybody who is singing about hungry people in Africa, or farms in the Midwest, or newsy plans in their own home town ... things like that don't really carry the protest aura that some things did fifetten years ago. These are actions taken by people who are very normal -- They get together and help people and they leave it at that."
Helping each other is fashionable nowadays, he says, and "I hope it becomes more fashionable. I think if you're going to be a slave to fashion, you might as well do it to benefit other people."
An admirer of St. Francis, Arlo is a lay brother. There was a time, he says, when he "sort-of" hung out in monasteries. "Just for the sake of not standing out, I dressed in gowns and robes, "But," he says, "that is not a big deal. I'm not trying to detract from other people's comings and goings. I tend to disappear as a personality or celebrity when I'm dressed like everyody else." As for Steve Goodman's song, The City Of New Orleans, Guthrie says it took him three months and six recordings to get the song like he wanted. "I kept hearing it," he says, tilting his head with a shy laugh, "but didn't like it. So, I'd go back and start from scratch again."
On his next album, he says, there are decidedly biased. "I've always been that way," he says. "I don't try to remain neutral about things. I don't find any job in neutrallity. I'd rather be wrong than neutral."
Arlo glances out the window at the big whoop-de-doo getting started along the tracks just as the conductor announces that the train will be stopping in Kankakee soon. "I never expected them (the people of Kankakee) to do it up this big," he says.
Patricia Shipp Lieb; published by Twilight Times Books, Solstice Publishing, Xlibris Press and Amazon Kindle.I like lots of space; photography, writing, reading, diddling around on the computer, playing Poker, spending time with family and friends, walking on the beach, and hiking through the woods. Author of: The Adventures of a Squirrel Named Peanut, Twilight Times Books; My Eighteenth Birthday, 1960 suspense-adventure; Solstice; Danger In The Cliffs, Solstice; Saying I Love You, poetry on Amazon's Kindle; The original version of Murders In The Swampland is available in hard-back books from Xlibris.com; Murders in the Swampland (third edition, updated) true crime now on Amazon Kindle.