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What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been

July 14, 2015
The Grateful Dead played their final three shows in Chicago over the July 4 weekend.  The “Fare Thee Well” concerts were the last ones the four remaining founding members of the band – Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzman – will play under the Grateful Dead name. dead-fair-thee-well What do the Dead and fraternals have in common?  Nothing.  I just happen to love the Dead’s music and am tired of writing and worrying about relevance, regulation, and interest rates in the middle of a glorious summer day.  So, I’m penning a tribute to a band that I’ve seen more than a few times and whose music – particularly the legions of bootleg recordings taped by fans over the last 50 years – has sustained and inspired me in good times and bad. So, in no particular order, here are my Top Ten list of Dead tunes – original and covers – that will live on long after the concerts are over:

• Iko Iko – This cover of a traditional New Orleans classic was on the car stereo when we adopted our first family dog from the local animal shelter.  Of course, that’s what we named the pup…

• China Cat Sunflower/I Know You Rider – Because you can’t have one without the other, this often played transition never gets old.  My favorite rendition was during a 1982 concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre outside of Denver.  The crowd went nuts when Jerry Garcia sang, “I’d shine my light through the cool Colorado rain.”

• El Paso – The Dead covered a host of these long western ballads, many written by the great Marty Robbins, but this by far is my favorite.

• Sugar Magnolia – A standard, and deservedly so.

• Truckin’ – Another standard, but I can’t leave it off the list.  My favorite line from the “Europe ‘72” album is: “This next song rose to #1 on the charts in Turlock, CA.  They love us in Turlock, and we love them for that.”

• Me and Bobby McGee – A great tune covered in a one of a kind way.  Eat your heart out, Janis Joplin…

• Franklin’s Tower – “Roll away the dew”… I just never get tired of that riff.

• Wharf Rat – Jerry Garcia in peak form on the “Skull and Roses” version…

• Friend of the Devil –Weir and Garcia make acoustic guitar magic.

• Eyes of the World – The classic jam tune for the classic jam band. I’ve seen and heard versions that last 20 minutes or more – and wish they would have gone on longer…Fare the well

Feel free to add your own favorites here.  Back to business next week…