Monday, July 15, 2013

Grateful Dead--Truckin' (1971)

     There have been artists who have had overall greater success, there has also been musicians who created a greater stir among fans. However, with the possible exception of Elvis, there hasn't been a group of musicians who have elicited a more loyal and dedicated fan base over the course of 40 years as The Grateful Dead.
     Up until his death in 1995 (and even for several years after that as the band traveled as 'The Dead') this band spent much of it's time on the road, followed by fans who would literally follow the group from city to city. This isn't as crazy as it sounds, as if you were truly into the music, you'd know that not only did the set list change nightly, but the way it was played was as well. Fans were encouraged to record and trade concerts with each other. They truly did keep a 60's ethos for all of those years.    The group was intertwined with the San Francisco scene in just about any and every way possible. If there was a major scene going on in the West Coast, the Grateful Dead were there either as participants (most of the time) or observing it. If there was a pied piper of the summer of love, it was Jerry Garcia. 
     The music was a mish-mash of many different styles. A listen to their best music during the late 60's/early 70's showed doses of rock, folk, bluegrass, reggae and country with a smattering of space rock and psychedelia and jazz. They started out as The Warlocks, a jug band in San Francisco with Jerry Garcia (guitar, vocals), Bob Weir (guitar, vocals), Ron "Pigpen" McKernan (Keyboard, Harmonica, vocals), Phil Lesh (bass, vocals), and Bill Kreutzmann (drums). There were several others who were with the group over long periods of time: Mickey Hart, Keith and Donna Godchaux, Brian Mydland, and Vince Weinick among others.
     They were known mostly as an album band, and never had a top 40 hit until 1987's, "Touch of Grey", but probably their best known song to the novice was, "Truckin'". The song was written by Garcia, Weir, Lesh, and lyricist Robert Hunter and was part of the classic, "American Beauty" album. It's story of travels on the road as a metaphor for life still resonates today with it's, "what a long strange trip it's been" tagline.



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