Grateful Dead

California Earthquake

Lyrics By: Rodney Crowell
Music By: Rodney Crowell

There was a California earthquake, in the year of '83
It shook the living daylights out of the Owens County Seat
Not a building still left standing when the dust had cleared away
Just a rumble in the distance all the way to San Andrea

Oh Sherman Buck was driving his old mule into town
When a big one came and shook so hard, that it knocked him to the ground
Lord there opened up a hole so big, he thought his time was up
And it swallowed up that poor old mule and it just missed Sherman Buck

California earthquake you just don't know what you've done
We may fall off in the ocean, but you'll never make us run
You're a partner to the devil, but we ain't afraid of him
We'll build ourselves another town so you can tear it down again

Then came the quake of '99 that levelled Mission Creek
The earth was like an ocean churning, with waves of twenty feet
Lord it sounded like a thousand trains were screaming underground
Clean across to San Joachim, they heard that mournful sound

Then came one day the holocaust on San Franciso Bay
[Ninety] miles of walls came down like old Jericho that day
Might near everything the earthquake missed, a holy fire consumed
And left 'em smoke and the ashes of the dreams that can't be ruined (note 1)

Build ourselves another town so you can tear it down again

This was played twice by the Dead in October 1989 following the Loma Prieta earthquake in California.

(1) There are a number of small variations between the lyrics Garcia sings and those of the original Rodney Crowell version. This line is the most different. Rodney Crowell's version is:

"Just left 'em Holy Smoke and Ashes, what's a dream that can't be ruined"

California Earthquake