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“Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” is a musical monologue by singer-songwriter Arlo Guthrie released on his 1967 album Alice’s Restaurant. The song is one of Guthrie’s most prominent works, based on a true incident in his life that began on Thanksgiving Day 1965, and which inspired a 1969 movie of the same name. Apart from the chorus which begins and ends it, the “song” is in fact a spoken monologue, with a repetitive but catchy ragtime guitar backing.
Though the song’s official title, as printed on the album, is “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” (pronounced “mass-a-cree,” not massacre), Guthrie states in the opening line of the song that “This song’s called ‘Alice’s Restaurant’” and that “‘Alice’s Restaurant’… is just the name of the song;” as such, the shortened title is the one most commonly used for the song today.
In an interview for All Things Considered, Guthrie said the song points out that any American citizen who was convicted of a crime, no matter how minor (in his case, it was littering), could avoid being conscripted to fight in the Vietnam War.
The Alice in the song was restaurant-owner Alice M. Brock, who in 1964 used $2,000 supplied by her mother to purchase a deconsecrated church in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where Alice and her husband Ray would live. It was here rather than at the restaurant—which came later—where the song’s Thanksgiving dinners were actually held.
The song lasts 18 minutes and 34 seconds, occupying the entire A-side of Guthrie’s 1967 debut record album, also titled Alice’s Restaurant. It is notable as a satirical, first-person account of 1960s counterculture, in addition to being a hit song in its own right. The final part of the song is an encouragement for the listeners to sing along, to resist the U.S. draft, and to end war.