Grateful Dead

Greatest Stories Ever Told

Here’s the plan—each week, I will blog about a different song, focusing, usually, on the lyrics, but also on some other aspects of the song, including its overall impact—a truly subjective thing. Therefore, the best part, I would hope, would not be anything in particular that I might have to say, but rather, the conversation that may happen via the comments over the course of time. With Grateful Dead lyrics, there’s always a new and different take on what they bring up for each listener, it seems.

- David Dodd

  • Once in awhile, writing this blog, I check my list of songs I’ve written about so far, sure that I must have covered this or that particular song, only to be amazed that I haven’t. I mean: “Friend of the Devil”? Come on! It’s the definition of a story song. It might BE the Greatest Story they ever told.

  • California has been begging for rain for a few years now, and we are in the midst of a serious drought. Right now, though, and for the past few days, it has been raining—a long, soaking rain with periods of intense thunderstorm activity.

  • I wrote a fairly complete annotation about the character of Casey Jones, whose story was told in “The Ballad of Casey Jones,” which was, in turn, performed by the Dead at least a couple of times during acoustic sets in 1970. The bare facts of the historical basis for the legend have been pretty well documented.

  • When the Bush regime invaded Iraq in search of the supposed hidden caches of weapons of mass destruction, I changed the kicker line on the “Annotated Lyrics” website to the line from “Blues for Allah”...

  • Listening to the new Dave’s Picks (#12, November 4, 1977, at Colgate University) on my way home from work today, I listened as the drummers settled into the familiar Bo Diddley beat out of their drum solo...

  • “Bertha.” How is it that it took me 90 weeks to get to “Bertha”? I know..

  • A new book is coming out very soon from Simon & Schuster, who are also my publishers. It’s a collection of the lyrics of Bob Dylan, in a definitive edition complete with variant versions of the words, scholarly essays, and, possibly, some degree of annotation—the working title for several months had been The Complete Annotated Bob Dylan Lyrics.

  • I’m hoping to do something a little bit different this week, given that it’s my 88th post for this blog. 88 is a magic number: the number of keys on a standard piano keyboard.

  • "If that jubilee don’t come….maybe I’ll meet you on the run.” Garcia is one of those collections of songs that seems borderline unbelievable, 44 years later.

  • I am grateful to have received, recently, a somewhat indignant email from a reader of this column, taking me to task for having “overlooked” “Loser.”

Greatest Stories Ever Told