In the 47 years since Arlo Guthrie recorded “Alice’s Restaurant,” the 18-plus minute song has become a Thanksgiving Day tradition — and an ode to a simpler time even if its subtext is the Vietnam War.
If you haven’t heard “Alice’s Restaurant,” then you probably don’t know that it’s not really a song, but rather an 18-minute monologue with a little singing at the beginning and end, as well as some ragtime guitar picking. The subtext to the subtext is that back in the day, American boys could avoid being drafted to fight in the controversial and deeply immoral war if convicted of a crime, in Guthrie’s case, littering — leaving garbage at a quaint New England village’s dump when it was closed. The song . . . er, monologue was an enormous countercultural hit in the late 1960s.
We have been listening to “Alice’s Restaurant” courtesy of the wonderful Helen Leicht for many years at noon EST on Thanksgiving Day on WXPN-FM in Philadelphia. Tune in here and enjoy!