Arlo Hennings: Guitarlo

Hear2Ear 2016

Arlo Hennings: Guitarlo


An account of a great escape in search of a lost chord to balance one destiny, and change the ways of the world, through the love of music and people.

If your interest in music goes beyond the regular into what many consider as exotic, you may be familiar with Arlo Hennings – but not with his story. His story is as colorful as the music Arlo propagates, although Hennings starts his autobiography in black tones, with the homeless author beaten by the police at the “Occupy” demonstration or, if you skip “Prelude” (note a musical connotation of the foreword), with a smoke-filled train car which, being his first conscious memory, may have been a portent of years on the move. “I braced myself with suitcase and awaited my next life”: here’s the line that could become a leitmotif for many situations described in this tome, for the writer’s always been a runaway – from his somewhat dysfunctional family, from conventional modus operandi, from his homeland – yet more important than what he was leaving behind has been what he’s been headed for.

In the beginning it was Woodstock; most recently, emotional equilibrium abroad. Outward then and inwards now, the route – outlined by the writer’s love of guitar-playing; hence his nickname as the book’s title – is making for an arresting journey which used to be a trip. That’s why no less important have been those who Arlo crossed paths with along the way, and their value to this account in Henning’s own eyes. You’re never really sure if his incidental meeting with Hunter S. Thompson was a hallucination or reality, yet the author’s memories of South Africa in the times of change, when he was managing Shawn Phillips, and interacting with other stars are as tangible as it gets, while tragicomic circumstances of a CROSBY, STILLS & NASH tour that Arlo was part of warrants a mere mention, just because it’s not as relevant to his individual development as average people Hennings mingles with – hippies, salespersons, workers and, of course, spiritual movers such as the aforementioned Thompson or alcoholic shaman 52 Goodfingers.

All of this is accompanied by acute observations of America and, later on, a perspective of Indonesia whose life, just like Arlo’s own, is a struggle for balance; that Hennings came out of his many misadventures alive and in good humor to recount the events and find a new way to contribute to world music is a feat in itself. Sometimes sad, often hilarious, “Guitarlo” is a riveting read.


December 13, 2016

Category(s): Books

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