Grateful Dead Songs
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Grateful Dead songs

We added a detailed Dylan and the Grateful Dead chapter.

There are many great sites about information on Grateful Dead songs with lyrics, sets lists, guide to every time the song was played, etc.  Check our links page for those sources. 

This section is about our favorite Grateful Dead songs and their best performances released commercially, of course, in our opinion. We do not have enough time to cover every song, nor do we plan to rank each version.  With the amount of new releases that would be a never ending task. 

With our modest collect of unreleased  Grateful Dead recordings, we may add a recommendation of tapes to seek out for a particular song. Though, we have not heard every Grateful Dead show, nor do we care to.  Our list is just some great versions of their songs, and our intention is to keep it short. 

If you are trying to decide which Grateful Dead release or tape to get and have a favorite song, we hope our writings of select, outstanding Grateful Dead performances is helpful. Do you want to find what commercial releases include which songs?  Look no further as the Grateful Dead's website has a document and WhiteGum has a great search engine.

We will be updating this document regularly and adding to the recommended versions of songs as we listen to our tape collection. 

Help 
If you have suggestions of superb song performances and / or would like to contribute some song write up's let me know.   Our vision of this page is bigger than the time we have.  

WarningThe Grateful Dead's music is so good that you may become addicted.  Listen at your own risk.  

Featured Grateful Dead Songs
Alabama Getaway 

China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider
Dark Star
Eyes of the World 
Friend of the Devil
Hard to Handle
Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodleloo
Morning Dew
Shakedown Street
Sugaree
Tighten Up

Grateful Dead songs
Grateful Dead Songs 

The Grateful Dead 's song Alabama Getaway

Alabama Getaway

"Alabama Getaway" is a catchy rock 'n roll song in the style of Chuck Berry, penned by Garcia and Hunter.  It debuted on 11/4/79, at their Providence Rhode Island performance.  It appeared on the first album with keyboardist Brent Mydland Go to Heaven.  

We think "Alabama Getaway" was at its best in 1979, but there solid versions throughout their career.  The song worked well to open up concerts, close the first set, and as an encore.  

Commercial Releases
Dick's Picks 5 

Tapers Choice
11/23/79 - Phil !!!

The Grateful Dead 's song China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider

China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider

"China Cat Sunflower" has been in the Grateful Dead's  repertoire since 2/3/68, and "I  Know You Rider" since 11/3/65.  The first pairing of the songs together was at the Cafe au Go-Go in New York, NY on 9/29/69.  

We think this Grateful Dead classic began to develop nicely in 1973 and was at it's absolute best in 1974.  The "Feeling Groovy Jam" showed up in the Spring of '73.  

Commercial Releases
Dick's Picks 12 - This release has arguably the best performance of the track.  I haven't heard a version I like more.  

There are many other stunning versions of this song commercially, see the individual CD reviews for details.  Our next three favorite versions in order are Dick's Picks 24Dick's Picks 19, and Dick's Picks 28

Other eras of commercial versions.
DP32 (Terrapin Limited is pretty good too.)

Tapers Choice
8/27/72
12/6/73
5/19/74
6/25/85
6/19/89
9/20/90

The Grateful Dead's song Dark Star
Dark Star 

There has been much written about the Grateful Dead's ultimate jam song "Dark Star." Some great online analysis is available in Jim Powell's "The Dark Star Document"; it is in the resources section of Deadlists.  The first edition of Deadhead's Tapers Compendium has much print dedicated to the song as well. 

Dark Star had many significant performances from it's 12/13/67, debut.  It began to come into it's own in early 1969. Our favorite versions were performed in 1970.  The song transitioned perfectly through the years to follow, taking the form and identity of the band as it changed.  After the Grateful Dead's brief retirement from 1974 through early 1976 the song was not performed very often. 

Commercial 
Dick's Picks 4  - This is a really special version of the song and tops our list.  

Rockin' the Rhein's version of "Dark Star" is spectacular

The versions from Live Dead and Dick Pick's Volume 26 tell the Grateful Dead's story about Dark Star" exquisitely, and the version from Steppin' Out With the Grateful Dead is a sensational version from 1972.

Tapers Choice
9/19/70
2/18/71
8/27/72
9/21/72
11/11/73 - Great version with Mind Left Body Jam; Jerry explores on slide guitar and then bluegrass style picking ... > Eyes.  Keith is excellent too. 
10/18/74
10/26/89
3/29/90 w / Branford Marsalis
9/20/90
12/31/90 w / Branford Marsalis

The Grateful Dead's song Eyes of the World
Eyes of the World 

The Grateful Dead classic "Eyes of the World" was released on their 1973 album Wake of the Flood.  It debuted in 1973 at their February 9 concert on the Stanford University campus.  

"Eyes of the World" became an instant hit with the fans.  I consider the period of 1973 through 1974 to be absolute peak for this song.  Many Grateful Dead songs develop with time, but perhaps the best and most consistent versions of this song were during the spring '73 tour in which the song debuted.   

After the Grateful Dead's retirement, "Eyes of the World" remained in their line-up, but they eliminated the ending, which is a significant part of the song.  Nevertheless, 1977 and '78 were also exceptional periods for the song.  While it was beyond it's peak, it had stunning versions throughout the Brent, Bruce and Vince eras that followed.  

Commercial 
Dick's Picks 14  Just barely tops are list. The two runner ups are  the version from disc 2 from Dick's Picks 28, and  the performance from 10/19/74 included on So Many Roads, it is also the version from The Grateful Dead Movie.

From other eras:
Dick's Picks 18
Without a Net
with Branford Marsalis
Dick's Picks 17

There are many other exceptional released versions.

Tapers Choice
7/19/74 - Don't miss this one. The Spanish Jam preceding it. The Phil bombs explode. Really everyone contributes here.

The Grateful Dead's song Friend of the Devil
Friend of the Devil 

The Grateful Dead's song "Friend of the Devil" has appeared in numerous different formats and variations.  Acoustically, the Grateful Dead performed it both in 1970 and 1980, each unique in sound. The Jerry Garcia acoustic band variations include his 4/10/82 solo appearance, the Jerry Garcia / John Kahn acoustic duets, primarily in 1982, the 1987 Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band, and  Garcia Grisman.  

Then there are the electric versions of "Friend of the Devil," again, versions with both the Grateful Dead and the Jerry Garcia Band.  Of course, there are variations with these versions too. The Grateful Dead's early versions were played at a quick pace, that slowed down considerable after their retirement. 

"Friend of the Devil" made it's first live appearance in an acoustic set on February 28, 1970. It debuted on their 1970 album American Beauty which featured mandolin extraordinaire David Grisman.  

It is our opinion that this song was strongest in 1978 with the Grateful Dead. For acoustic versions nothing tops the Garcia / Grisman versions. Our favorite version is from 2/3/91, at the Warfield Theater. 

Commercial 
Closing of Winterland
Dick's Picks 25

Tapers Choice
5/7/78
11/30/79 

Jerry Garcia Bands
4/10/82 Solo Appearance 
2/3/91 Garcia / Grisman 

The Grateful Dead's version of the song Hard to Handle
Hard to Handle 

The late Otis Redding co-wrote the rhythm and blues classic "Hard to Handle" with Allen Jones and Alvertis.  The Grateful Dead performed the song primarily  during the Pig Pen days.  Though, there were a few sporadic appearances in the 1980's primarily with guests.  

The three versions below are really definitive versions of the Grateful Dead's interpretation of the song.  

Commercial 
Ladies and Gentlemen

Runner up
8/6/71 Fallout from the Phil Zone 
8/7/71 Dick's Picks 35 

The Grateful Dead's song Mississippi Half Step
Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodleloo

This song has a catchy melody to open the song, a solid song framework, and great conclusion, which combine to give this song its charm. The first version appeared on 7/16/72, at Dillion Stadium in Hartford CT.  It and the first few versions don't have much of a conclusion. However, it did not take long for them develop the "Across the Rio Grand-eo ...," and additional instrumentals, as you can hear  Dick Pick's 23

The song is probably the strongest in 1977. The Grateful Dead paired it preceding "Franklin's Tower" from 1978 through 1982 where they have some stellar versions to seek out.

Commercial Releases
Dick's Pick's 7 - I expect the majority of Dead Heads would prefer the version on Dick's Picks 15 over this one. Really they are both exceptional in their own ways. Right on par with DP15 is the 11/5 version released on Dick's Picks 34.

Tapers Choice
5/7/77
11/5/77
11/6/77
11/2/79
The Grateful Dead 'ssong  Morning Dew
Morning Dew

"Morning Dew" is  song about the nuclear race was written by Canadian singer and songwriter Bonnie Dobson.  The Grateful Dead introduced the song at a concert in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on January 14,  1967. Smartly, the song stayed in their repertoire throughout their career.  One of the charms of the Grateful Dead's interpretation of "Morning  Dew" is the dynamics it encompasses. The way the mood of the song swifts back and forth from quiet to energetic is magical. But no more brilliant than the way they build up to the climatic peak to end the song. 

We think the Grateful Dead's version of "Morning Dew" was at it's absolute best in 1973 and 1974; although, 1977 versions are also sensational.  Additionally, there have been excellent performances every year of their career that are worth hearing. 

Commercial Releases
Dick's Picks 19 - This release is my favorite performance of "Morning Dew," bar none.  

There are many other stunning versions of this song commercially. A few that come to mind are:
Dick's Picks 7
GD Movie 10/18/74
Dick's Picks 14 particularly the second version, 
Dick's Picks 28

From other eras:
Dick's Picks 3
 
Dick's Picks 8
 
Dick's Picks 9

Tapers Choice
9/21/72
6/18/74
10/18/74
5/8/77 - Power
9/18/87
8/17/91

The Grateful Dead song Shakedown Street
Shakedown Street

"Shakedown Street" has always been a favorite song of mine.  It was written in the later Keith Godchaux era, but developed and had it's best performances in the Brent Mydland era, especially through 1982. Too, the versions from 1989 are significant.

The renditions of "Shakedown Street" in 1978 often were within the set two sequence that segued into and from other songs rather than stand alone pieces or set openers. A few are noted below that are worth seeking out.

Commercial Releases
12/31/84 - So Many Roads 

8/13/79 - This rendition was included on the bonus discs with Beyond Description. Excellent and very Phil dominate.

Tapers Choice
11/20/78
12/30/78
1/15/79 (It's the transition from "Miracle" more than the  "Shakedown")
12/31/79
4/6/82
4/17/82
10/18/89
12/6/89

The Grateful Dead's song  Sugaree
Sugaree  

The song "Sugaree"  was originally released on Garcia's self titled album. It is one of a handful of songs that he performed with both the Grateful Dead and his solo band.  The Grateful Dead first performed the song on 7/31/71, at a performance at Yale University in New Haven, CT. The song remained in their rotation throughout their career.  The Jerry Garcia Band performances were much more limited; primarily from 1975 through the early 1980's.   

Our opinion is that this song was at it's peak with the Grateful Dead in 1977.  With the Jerry Garcia Band there are two different flavors. The line-up's with piano, and those with organ; they are both excellent.  

Commercial 
Grateful Dead 

with Keith
Dick's Picks 3
  

with Brent
DP32 - with "The Music Never Stopped"

Jerry Garcia Band  Don't Let Go

Tapers Choice

Grateful Dead
5/7/77
5/25/77
10/16/77
6/21/80
10/17/83

Jerry Garcia Band
3/8/80 

The Dead
2/14/03 This version features Warren Haynes and a major jam of the Rolling Stones song of "You Can't Always Get What You Want" within.

The Grateful Dead's jam Tighten Up
Tighten Up Jam 

I came an excellent source for the "Tighten Up Jam" that occurred within either "Dark Star" or "Dancin'."
The dates:
Winterland Arena, San Francisco, CA, 10/25/69
Fox Theatre, St. Louis MO, 02/02/70 
Family Dog At The Great Highway - S. F., CA  Feb. 4, 1970 (Download Series .... Family Dog)
Field House, OH, 04/03/70 
San Francisco, CA, 04/12/70 (Fallout From The Phil Zone
Mammoth Gardens, CO, 04/24/70
Binghamton, 05/02/70 (Dicks Pick 8)
Kresge Plaza, 05/06/70 
Newcastle-Under-Lyme, 5-24-70 
Capitol Theater, 06/24/70 
Fillmore East, 09/17/70 
Fillmore East, 09/18/70 
Stony Brook, 10/30/70 
Port Chester, 11/08/70 
Port Chester, 02/18/71 (this jam is on the So Many Roads Arista box set)
Columbus, 10/31/71 (Dicks Picks 2

The songs of the Grateful Dead
 Postcards of the Hanging We added a detailed Dylan and the Grateful Dead chapter. 
The songs of the Grateful Dead
 

 

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