Legendary folk singer Arlo Guthrie has announced he will be retiring from performing following a series of health setbacks. Guthrie shared the news in a Facebook post, detailing his enjoyment in performing and explaining why he made the decision.
“As a folksinger, I never really thought much about getting older,” Guthrie said in the Facebook post. “It seemed to me that I could just continue year after year, decade after decade, singing and playing as I had done for most of my life. As the years went by, it got more difficult to keep touring, but I did it, mostly becasue I’d been doing it my entire life. It was the life I knew and loved.”
Guthrie detailed his recent issues with health, mentioning a mini stroke he had in April of 2016, and another in 2019. Guthrie explained the first mini stroke did not affect his performances, so he continued touring. and how he had performed at Carnegie Hall shortly after his mini-stroke in 2019. However, Guthrie suffered another stroke shortly after.
“This time was more serious, as I’d lost some ability to walk, and I wondered if I would be able to play music,” Guthrie said in the Facebook post. “I spent about a week in a rehab center to re-learn the basics, like walking. I went home after that, and began a regimen of playing guitar, walking… All the things I would need to continue touring and performing. During the entire time, Marti kept the family and close friends advised as to my progress, and took really great care of me. I needed all the help I could get. And she was there to see it done right.”
Guthrie detailed how in the time since, he moved from his house and into his girlfriend’s, and has been at his farm in Massachusetts for quarantine since June. Guthrie explained that he had tried to practice with his band and perform a few short gigs, however he felt he had fallen short of his own standards and expectations.
He had first started his career in the 1960s, gaining fame from singing songs of protest against social injustice. His father had been famed folk singer Woody Guthrie, who had written the iconic “This Land Is Your Land” in 1940. Arlo Guthrie had written the song “Alice’s Restaurant Massacre” in 1967, which runs for 18 minutes and details Guthrie and his friend illegally dumping “a half-ton of garbage” on private property. Arthur Penn created a comedy film titled Alice’s Restaurant in 1969 based off of the song. Guthrie stopped performing the track “Alice’s Restaurant Massacre” in many of his tours, instead opting to play it on every 10-year anniversary tour, with the track last being performed for its 50th anniversary.
“A folksinger’s shelf life may be a bit longer than a dancer or an athlete, but at some point, unless you’re incredibly fortunate or just plain whacko (either one or both) it’s time to hang up the ‘Gone Fishing’ sign,” Guthrie said in the Facebook post. “Going from town to town and doing stage shows, remaining on the road is no longer an option.”
Throughout his career, Guthrie had appeared on stage with Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, John Prine, Judy Collins, Pete Seeger and more. Guthrie recently voiced his support for the George Floyd protests, stating politicians should “embrace […] rather than resist the evolving nature of what it means to be an American.” Guthrie released his most recent single, “Hard Times Come Again No More” this past July, which had been his first release in over a decade. The track features Jim Wilson and Vanessa Bryan.