How Tom Morello Ruined the Kennedy Center's Woody Guthrie Tribute Concert

How sad that on the night of the final event of the year-long celebration of Woody Guthrie’s life and music, his son Arlo’s wife passed away two days after their 45th wedding anniversary. The morning after the concert, Arlo wrote the following about her passing:

The sun rose on my world this morning. Jackie stayed with us throughout the night, lingering in our hearts just out of sight but clearly present. She woke me before sunrise in a dream saying that the hour had come when she would need to leave us and be gone before the sun arose. As her words awakened me I walked outside and stood looking over the river talking with her in the predawn twilight we both loved so much. It was our time and for years she brought me coffee as I took photographs of morning on the river.

There are loves, and there are LOVES. Ours was and will continue to be what it has always been - A very great love. We didn't always like each other. From time to time there were moments when we'd have our bags packed by the door. But, there was this great love that we shared from the moment we met - a recognition - It's YOU! And we would always return to it year after year, decade after decade and I believe life after lifetime.

The audience at the concert--held at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.--all wondered about Arlo’s absence, since he was in the program. One artist said, “We’re all singing Woody’s songs for Jackie today,” but she didn’t elaborate. Arlo writes that we all live for the moment we are in, and hence “we have no thought of past or future.” He will continue to tour and make up the gigs he missed. That is what he does, communicating through art and song, like his father and many of his own children.

My wife and I went to the concert last night, along with some friends. It was an all-star cast, and there were many memorable moments. The young folks who make up the popular Old Crow Medicine Show brought vigor and a rousing old-timey feeling to some of Woody’s best songs. Rosanne Cash and her husband and guitar accompanist John Leventhal sang beautifully. Jimmy LaFave, who sounds like a younger Bob Dylan, was superb, and the bluegrass group featuring Del McCoury and his family, playing with banjo master Tony Trischka, did “So Long It’s Been Good to Know You” bluegrass style. Trischka and the band scored with a banjo rendition of “Woody’s Rag,” the only instrumental composition Guthrie ever wrote.