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

  • t’s a bouncy, bubbling song. It seems to be about one, thing, then blossoms into being about everything. It’s got lyrical motifs aplenty (flowers, nursery rhymes, gambling, shapes, colors, musical forms, precious metals, and more). This song, come to think of it, has it all.

  • There are several original songs in the Grateful Dead repertoire with a one-time-only lyricist. In the case of “Passenger,” the added quirk is thrown in of someone other than the composer singing the song.

  • I wasn’t sure exactly why, but I had been saving “China Cat Sunflower” for a special occasion. Celebrating the start of a new year seems like an appropriate occasion, so let’s look at what is probably my number one desert-island song.

  • Someday it would be fun to collect all the songs that mention the city of Memphis, Tennessee. Surely they would fill a book of their own—something about the city, with its deep history of being a birthplace of the blues, resonates with generation after generation of musicians. The Dead played a number of songs featuring Memphis...

  • Pigpen’s composition, “The Stranger (Two Souls in Communion)” was shrouded in obscurity for years. Back in 1997, I had a very fun circular exchange about the authorship of the song...

  • OK—hard to find a Thanksgiving song. For a band with the word “grateful” in their name, there is very little gratitude to be found. BUT: “Loose Lucy” has a chorus that fits the bill, and so, this week, let’s try to puzzle out this funny little song, if we can.

  • Oddly enough, for me this pair of Bob Weir / John Barlow tunes instantly conjures up a memory of Jerry Garcia, standing onstage at Winterland during the song, wearing his dark glasses and seemingly focused on a place deep within, or somewhere far away, as he blazingly played behind Weir’s singing.
  • This song represents the best reason I have to be grateful to my parents for getting me started with all those years of piano lessons. Well, maybe Beethoven and Chopin, too, but definitely “Stella Blue.” It’s a song I can lose myself in, whether listening to it or playing it myself.

  • Stranger and stranger—two meanings for the same word, both used in one song, and to great effect.

    I admit that I have gone back and forth over the years in thinking about what this song might “mean.” (Quotes intentional—no explanation of that necessary for anyone who has been reading these blog posts over the past 11 months…)

Greatest Stories Ever Told