Donna Jean's topic. (with respect to her participation in the Grateful Dead. She has her own topic for her current works!)
I saw her about a year and a half ago at a Black Tie Concert with DSO and she was fabulous! It was great to see her after so many years. "All energy flows according to the whims of the Great Magnet. What a fool I was to defy him."
I know I'm going to get a lot of flack for saying this, but after seeing 180 shows (about 40 with Donna/Keith), and listening to thousands of recordings, I can only think of two shows that I can "tolerate" with that line up. I can always listen to a nice Eyes or Half-Step from those shows, but never an entire show. The Dead for me is "dead" from 73' to 79'. The band jumps from the end of 72' right to Brent as far as I'm concerned. Granted, Jerry was smokin' during those years, and that is what is so sad. Her vocals were just horrible and frankly unlistenable. I know I'm being a jerk, but I'm just being honest with my opinion. I'd be lying if I thought otherwise. I think that with many true old time Dead heads (other than myself), their favorite years are the mid and late 70's. On the flip side, I think many mainstream people who strongly dislike the Dead do so because of what they have heard from that Donna/Keith period. Go figure. Believe me, I've truly tried to like it, and tried hard, but it ain't happenin'.
Let's just say that Donna Jean's work with the Dead (which was before my time) is an area on which mileage varies wildly, and so be it. I WILL say that this is the second time this week I've really wished a Golden Road story were readily available, because back in the olden days Blair did a really good interview with her that was quite enlightening on several fronts. Including her regular inability to hear herself in the mix, with the results that generated much complaint. Donna Jean, however, has moved on and has been singing with a number of other bands lately, most recently the Zen Tricksters, and I've gotta say, I have not heard a negative word about her current work from anyone. Quite the reverse. So I do think there's a bit of a that was then, this is now issue going on with her work. Things are not as they were in the '70s...
I'd rather listen to Donna wail thru any PLAYIN.Than ever listen to VINCE Sing and or play the keys. He was terrible.
Jerry really dug Donna.Why else would he have her JGB fer so ,long! For lack of a better backup singer, I think not... In JGB she was very good, she was in tune and everything!. After listening to many interviews from the '70's Jerry obviously saw something in her.. I must admit, some of the early Donna + GD stuff seems like she's tone deaf but from my understanding the band was so loud she couldn't hear herself. Basically what I'm saying is Jerry knew more about this than anybody, obviously. He wanted her in tboth GD and JGB for a reason. That's why I cut her the slack that some people don't. She does have all that (above) going for her and on top of that she was part of some of the best GD and JGB ever.... Just my .02 Lossless
Two thoughts on Krumm's post:1) Over the years, I've noticed that when a DH is down on something about The Music, it generally reflects something about themselves or their current conditions. The Talmud writers said something about seeing the "world" as we are and such. I can say that when my kids annoyed me the most was when they reminded me of, well, ME (that reminds me, I must get over to the "Bigger than a Drive In Movie section); 2) Anytime someone says that a period of time as long as the six years Donna was with the band had NOTHING to offer, seems more than a bit irrational. That might be a clue to observation # 1, but I can't say in this case. I do think the post could have been constructed better. The line, "I'd be lying if I thought otherwise" should be included in a newly written song by Robert Hunter though. Just my opinion. The Dude Abides!
....he's just GRTUD, that's all." GRTUD is to the profession of Psychiatry as George Costanzia is to Architecture. Nuf said. In another note, Vince's work with The Tubes was incredible. My idea is that the Grateful Dead became afraid to venture out of it's comfort zone musically (even though they really wanted to, which is possibly why they hired Vince in the first place), in part because they didn't want to disappoint those fans that were behind the time / space curve (in relation to the evolution of their music) and that contributed to some sort of "dogmatizing" of their music (I also think it had to do with not rehearsing as much as they had in the past due to various circumstances). Folks like Vince may have been caught in some of that turmoil, musically and professionally, I don't know - I'm just speculating. I don't disagree with a previous post, just been trying to figure out what the hell happened from a spectator's point of view. The interesting thing about our whole scene is that hind sight is NOT 20/20, which is weird (but cool too). Again, I don't know anything about music technically because it's my last form of true entertainment. If I were to learn it technically, it would ruin the release I get when I'm in it's presence. I love turning that 4 hours of time over to someone else completely and not having to dissect and analyze every tiny detail. That's what I'm paying the performers for, after all. To put my idea another way, I know what I like and what I don't like, but I can't really say why and I reserve the right to change my mind at any time. In terms of critiquing the Grateful Dead and any of what it was or is, it may in fact be a journey into the heart of one's own soul but only because of how remarkable ALL the cast of characters are/were. I don't know but I've been told. "All energy flows according to the whims of the Great Magnet. What a fool I was to defy him."
i agree with you completely. unlike you i haven't see any shows! but i hope my opinion is still valid. whenever her songs pop up i immediately switch it. the first time i heard Sunrise i think i wanted to cry, like "what is this?!" i was happy to see she wrote the lyrics and the music and not any other member (that would be disappointing). but in the end i suppose it is about personal taste. I bet a lot of people like her! I just dont like female singing in general i suppose. It's better than i could ever do.
I can go either way. Sometimes Donna is right on the money and she fucking rocks. Other times I feel like she just makes noise. I'm listening to Don't let Go, JGB right now and I think she's great on this show. She was recently in town playing a gig and I heard that it was really good.I don't think anybody should catch any flack for their opinions on the various line ups through the years. We're all hear to talk about this stuff aren't we? battman mentioned Vince up above, I think he said he was terrible. I think that his work with the Tubes was cool but I'm not too crazy about all of his work with the dead. Some very cool, some not so cool. Just an opinion.
Dear fellow deadhead,its true donna live can be really out of key,but as many people apoinnt i go with the opinion that there must have been a severe problem with the monitors,just becuse with a band that powerful like the GD(and i do not speak in term of watts only....)any Backgroundsinger might have had a problem.strange,on the studio albums her voice fits in more than perfect......!Sure you might konsider the GD dead from 72-79,so please if you have any recordings from this period(Tape or Cd) send em over!i willingly take the heavy duty of freeing u of this stuff.....P,S. I pay even the postage:Peace
I know it's an old post, but any piccies???! "May your dogs be with you"
Personally I never had much of a problem with Donna in the old days.But I do remember lots of dead heads saying "I hope donna doesn't sing to much tonight" while going into the shows. I think what was stated earlier is true...things got so loud on stage that she couldn't hear herself properly. That's essential for a background singer. I'm glad to see her back on the scene, looking well and having a good time.
and thanks Deeje as I now know to call her!
My 1st show was summer 1970, and from there I heard a lot of Donna. To me the band was just that, the band. I took what they gave me, was Grateful and accepted whatever they wanted me to hear, sticking with them through the whole trip. I know folks who wanted Bobby to drop off the face of the Earth, which always confused me too. And as someone said Jerry had her & Keith in a great mix in JGB in the 70's, which I also saw & loved. Remember, this woman was a Muscle Shoals girl, she had a great voice and could really sing. I think they didn't always have her miked right or mixed right, and of course there were those times when she would wail, but I took it all in and loved it all. And believe me I'm a real music bitch. But when it came to the Dead, they could do no wrong. Please continue to enjoy!
i do not understand all the posts bashing her, seems every show everybody was cheerin her on, even the shows with bad posts about i thought she was on! some ears have different taste buds i guess. ditto for the keyboardists too!
I didn't really know an appropriate place to post this, but please keep Donna Jean and her family in your thoughts and prayers. Her mother passed away.
Donna was the WORST ever, in my opinion. Well, actually, I don't mind it when she's doing her job: BACKGROUND SINGING. Thus connecting Bob and Jerry's voice, balancing it. This is what background singers do. But when she starts wailing like a sick cow giving birth to a dinosaur, that's when my ears shut down completely (PLAYING IN THE BAND, SCARLET BEGONIAS, MUSIC NEVER STOPPED). Thankfully, during those peak Dead years when she was in the band (ONLY because her husband was the keyboardist) are listenable because she's in the BACKGROUND for most of the songs. I simply have to Fast Forward whenever she starts giving birth on stage. But for anyone who says, "She must have been good because Jerry loved her and she was in the band a long time" has to realize, IF SHE WAS DONNA JEAN SMITH, and no member of the band had the last name SMITH, she wouldn't be singing. And I don't care if she sang for Elvis and Aretha Franklin. That's their problem. The DEAD didn't need her. Brent had a better background voice than she EVER had.
....but you're full of shit. Donna Jean was a wonderful performer with a graceful stage presence. I'm guessing you never had the good fortune of seeing her in the band during the 70's. Don't base your opinion on an assortment of soundboard recordings! Brent sure pleased a lot of people in the 80's; however, he couldn't ever replace Donna.
thanks for posting that....besides, she's a wonderful person.....:)))
I've never had the pleasure of meeting Donna Jean. Remember when she took maternity leave in December 1973? Phil had to fill in w the tenor notes in her absence!
I just had to laugh, these last couple of comments should be on the "deader than thou" thread.On the bus, off the bus, donna sucked, she was great, opinions are like ...., everyone has one, and, I thought, the right to voice that opinion was a liberty we all have. My opinion of deeje won't be placed on this vine, don't want the dead police to get me.
given all the examples you've cited, you shouldn't feel like you have to hold back, even though I suspect we can all guess where your feelings lie on this particular topic. Didn't we just see someone nominate Dark Star as a pee break song? Furthur proof that it takes all kinds to make a market. As for Donna, like I've said before every time I saw her with GD she definitely added to the experience, and for me some of the songs just have never been the same without her. Change happens. The last time I saw Donna was with her band at Gathering Of The Vibes last summer, and as usual, she and they were great! Double duty day for Jeff Mattson, too. FWIW, Brent early on came across to me more like a timid schoolboy. Took him more than a few years before he started feeling his oats. Conversation is always more interesting than recitation, so speak your mind and not someone else's.
Have a grateful day Donna Jean!
I always loved Donna Jean and Keith too!