Woody Guthrie: All Star Tribute Concert 1970 (DVD)

Various Artists

MVD Visuals 2019

Review by David Bowling

 

Woody Guthrie was an iconic American musician and folk singer who died at the age of 55 in 1967 of Huntington’s disease. His legacy continues to influence musicians down to the present day’

Two memorial tribute concerts were held following his death. The more famous of the two took place in New York City, which featured the reunion of Bob Dylan and the Band. The second, reviewed here, occurred over two and a half years later at the Hollywood Bowl. It was a more traditional folk music concert, featuring such singers as his son Arlo, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Odetta, Richie Havens, Country Joe McDonald, Pete Seeger, and Joan Baez.

Woody Guthrie: All Star Tribute Concert 1970 is a visual presentation of the 1970 Hollywood Bowl concert. The music has been released several times but now three new performances make an appearance, plus rehearsal footage, and interviews with Arlo Guthrie and Jack Elliott.

This is a historical recording that will mostly appeal to fans of traditional folk music. Many of Guthrie’s songs are still well known and here they are presented simply, both solo and in various configurations.

The concert took place almost a half-century ago and what is quickly apparent is how young the participants look. Several have passed away and the rest are now in their 70’s to late 80’s, but in 1970, they were all in the primes of their careers.

Two of the newly found performances define Guthrie’s music. Elliott’s take on “1913 Massacre” and Joan Baez’s version of “Pastures Of Plenty” cover both sides of his approach. Guthrie experienced The Great Depression and the events of World War II during his lifetime and they profoundly influenced his lyrics, but he never lost track of the American Dream as his “This Land Is Your Land” demonstrates. This song and “Bound For Glory” are performed by the entire cast and show the power of Guthrie’s words.

“One Hundred Miles” (Richie Havens), “Pretty Boy Floyd” (Country Joe McDonald), “Oklahoma Hills” (Arlo Guthrie), and the poignant “So Long It’s Been Good To Know Yuh” ( Joan Baez and Pete Seeger) all fill in parts of Guthrie’s life and music.

Woody Guthrie: All Star Tribute Concert 1970 chronicles an event frozen in time, which presents eternal American music. The film may not be completely up to modern day standards but the music more than makes up for any technological failures. All in all, it is a fine introduction to the music of Woody Guthrie by some of the cream of the 1960’s folk revival.

Rating: ***1/2