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Lawrence Bush
July 9, 2017

Arlo Guthrie, son of Woody Guthrie and Marjorie Mazia, a Jewish dancer in Martha Graham’s company, was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1947. His maternal grandmother was the well-known Yiddish poet Aliza Greenblatt. Guthrie studied for his bar mitsve with the rightwing rabbi Meir Kahane (“[S]hortly after he started giving me my lessons, he started going haywire,” Guthrie said. “Maybe I was responsible”), later converted to Catholicism, and ultimately embraced a hybrid spirituality with Eastern religious influences. Guthrie has also been a political transient, shifting from a McGovern Democrat in the 1980s to a libertarian by 2008. He is best known as a musician for his anti-draft talking blues, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” for his drug-smuggling song, “Coming into Los Angeles,” for his frequent concerts with Pete Seeger, and for his lovely version of Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans,” which you can see him performing with Willie Nelson below.

“Everyone has a responsibility to not only tolerate another person’s point of view, but also to accept it eagerly as a challenge to your own understanding. And express those challenges in terms of serving other people.” --Arlo Guthrie

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.