Grateful Dead

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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

  • 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.”

  • My friend, Grateful Dead scholar Mary Goodenough, mentioned this week how she was listening to “Althea” a lot lately, and still finding new things in the song. If there’s a song that can be repeatedly applied to many different life circumstances, it’s “Althea.”

  • After a brief foray into the land of cynicism with my post last week, it’s back to my usual hopeful outlook today, albeit via a song that seems to lack hope.I was listening to the new Wake Up to Find Out release on my drive in to work today, when up came “We Can Run.” It’s a beautiful version...

  • I know, it must seem like I am all sweetness and light and totally just, like, gaga over every single song in the band’s repertoire sometimes. But hey, I can be just as cynical and grumpy as the next picky Deadhead.

    I admit it: I don’t like “Mason’s Children.”

  • When the plans for a print version of what had been an online-only resource (the Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics) were first bandied about, it was my wife, Diana, who came up with the idea of using small drawings to provide illustrations throughout, rather than photos. The idea comes from print dictionaries (remember those?), which have traditionally used small drawings sprinkled throughout to add interest to a very dry discourse.

  • Blair Jackson once wrote a very fun piece, “The Swirl According to Carp: A Meditation on the Grateful Dead,” under the pseudonym Jack Britton, in which he characterized Grateful Dead music as “the swirl! The swirl!”

  • “Just a little nervous from the fall.” Is there a more beautiful, beautifully-sung, and stunningly-recorded phrase in all of music? OK, so maybe in something by Brahms, or on Abbey Road, or in some other exquisite piece of music. But I cannot count the number of times over the years that I have been brought up short by that phrase as performed and captured on Mars Hotel. And there’s so much behind it, by the point it happens in the song, that it just takes my breath away. I think that is what the phrase is meant to do, both lyrically and musically, and it succeeds.

  • Searching for a song for this week, this week in which we lost Robin Williams, I realized that “Eternity” might be a good choice.

  • A couple of years ago, I lucked into a musical opportunity that will probably never come my way again: I got to sing back-up harmonies for Bob Weir. OK, it was for Bob Weir and the Marin Philharmonic, and I was one of ten or so singers, but still.

  • Coming around again on that time in the Deadhead year, the Days Between, so I will continue with another Jerry tune or two as we think about the life he led and the music he brought to all of us.

Greatest Stories Ever Told