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Posted at 03:41 PM ET, 11/23/2011

Thanksgiving Traditions: Listening to Arlo Guthrie’s ‘Alice’s Restaurant’

This here is a blog post about a song called “Alice’s Restaurant.” The song is about Alice. And her restaurant. But for clarity’s sake, we should point out that the name of the actual restaurant is not “Alice’s Restaurant.”
Musician Arlo Gurthrie, left, on guitar (JACQUELINE LARMA - AP)

Or so Arlo Guthrie explains during the preamble of his iconic 18+ minute satirical spoken blues classic. According to the bio on Guthrie’s Web site, it was 46 Thanksgivings ago when Guthrie got caught littering Alice’s garbage, events that inspired the song.

Of course, a song of this length (there are versions that stretch to 30 minutes) has a few more twists and turns than simple littering. There is a trial for the “biggest crime of the last 50 years” for the small town of Stockbridge, Mass. There are the ramifications of this police record when the narrator makes his way to Whitehall Street in New York to be drafted. And there is a call to action for greater social conciousness amidst all of the mayhem.

The song was popular enough in the late 1960s to spawn a Hollywood movie starring Guthrie as himself. But in the near half-century since it’s release it has established an ethereal foothold on the American cultural landscape as a regular feature of Thanksgiving day radio broadcasts. Radio stations from Philly to Santa Fe play it on their Turkey day broadcasts year after year. Bringing together generations of listeners as they make their way through traffic choked interstates to Thanksgiving tables across the country.

To pay it forward to a digital generation, we present to you the following embedded YouTube videos. They include the full “Alice’s Restaurant” with full orchestration and five-part harmony.

Do you have a different Thanksgiving tradition? Melissa says she’s never heard the song, but watches the “Twilight Zone” with her family every year. She wonders if this makes her peculiar. Tell us in the comments what you and yours do. Happy Thanksgiving!

By Justin Bank  |  03:41 PM ET, 11/23/2011

 
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