Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

Arlo’s Folks

Behind a great folk singer is his Yiddish poet mother-in-law

Print Email

As a faithful fan of Arlo Guthrie’s annual Thanksgiving concert at Carnegie Hall, I went expecting familiar tunes and oft-told stories from his standard repertoire, which used to include all of Alice’s Restaurant. But the profusion of yarmulkes I saw as I walked into the hall signaled that this night would be different. Arlo walked on stage, introduced his sister Nora, their yearlong project, Holy Ground, and then the Klezmatics. They launched into three Woody Guthrie Hanukkah songs. The audience clapped along, and many of us in the balcony joined in the choruses.

In the program, Arlo explained that his father wrote these songs for family celebrations in Coney Island inspired by his mother-in-law, the Yiddish poet and songwriter Aliza Greenblatt. “I owe more to her than to anyone else in this world,” Arlo said of his grandmother, whom I’ve never heard him mention before. “She was my true mentor.” This tribute to family, folk roots, and his Jewish ancestry, was in keeping with his defining hallmarks that bring so many of us back to Carnegie Hall year after year: a deeply felt spirituality and a commitment to peace and social justice.

Arlo interrupts his songs with personal anecdotes, and we applaud his musings as much as his songs. Toward the end, he stopped after the first verse of “This Land is Your Land” to share his thoughts on the story of Joseph and his brothers. Only Arlo would call him Joe, “the guy with the coat.”

Print Email

COMMENTING CHARGES
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at letters@tabletmag.com. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

2000

Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Arlo’s Folks

Behind a great folk singer is his Yiddish poet mother-in-law

More on Tablet:

Would a Jackal Take Better Care of Its Young?

By Adam Kirsch — For most Jews in Talmudic times, marriage was the biggest financial transaction of their lives