We examine Ripple, the timeless cosmic hymn leading off Side B of American Beauty, written during what Robert Hunter called a peak experience, and take a close look at the Dead’s very own softball team, with guests Bob Weir, David Grisman, Ned Lagin, and many more, including Ripple chorale performer Sam Cutler.
Ripple supplementary notes
By Jesse Jarnow
The lyrics to Ripple emerged from what Robert Hunter called a “peak experience” during his first visit to London in May of 1970. You can see the band’s arrival in the UK in bonus footage from Amir Bar-Lev’s Long Strange Trip.
Hunter stayed at the flat of a good friend, Alan Trist, who was out of town at the moment. In a burst of inspiration, he wrote three songs in one sitting. Hunter later posted the handwritten lyric draft to “Ripple.”
In the band’s archive at UC Santa Cruz, Nicholas Meriwether uncovered a later typed draft of “Ripple,” with chord changes in Jerry Garcia’s handwriting, which he wrote about in a 2015 Documenting the Dead column.
You can also see other chord changes bleeding through from the other side of the paper, which can be viewed more clearly when the image is reversed. In the “Ripple” episode we discuss what these chords might or might not be with musicologist Jacob Cohen.
And a video of the band performing “Ripple” on Halloween 1980 at Radio City Music Hall.
Fantastic episode on Ripple! I've always been curious about the Dead vs. Airplane softball game that supposedly reunited Garcia and Grisman and led to Dawg's playing on Ripple. Mostly, I've always wondered what positions everyone played, and whether they were any good.
Weir I always figured would be pretty good, and it turns out he was and he played first. Rex was really good and played third, Garcia left, Ned Lagin in center, Lesh in right field. Pigpen umped. Other positions apparently manned by the eponymous ringers, which were good players Rex knew from back in Pendleton. Surprised there was no mention of Micky or BK: you'd kind of expect the drummers to be decent athletes. Bill had to be strong as ox, considering he could play drums for those three hour plus shows. Maybe Micky wasn't around at that time?
It was also interesting to learn that Gracie's position was "obscene cheerleader," although she apparently also got to bat. Great stuff!