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Grateful Dead

Posted: Wed Mar 09, 2016 4:59 pm
by John2
I'm bored so I thought I'd see if there are any other Grateful Dead fans here. While it may not seem like a religious topic, in my life the most "spiritual" feeling I've had has been listening to the Grateful Dead, and I'm certainly not alone in that respect.

Judaism & the Grateful Dead – an unlikely or natural pairing?

There are many Jews who take to both Judaism and the Grateful Dead like bees to honey. This phenomenon shouldn’t be surprising. It certainly isn’t incongruous. First of all, by definition, serious adherents of both groups are true seekers in search of creating a more humane world. 4000 years ago, Abraham and Sarah, the first Jews, left their idolatrous home and culture in Mesopotamia in search of their one true God and a homeland. Since then, their descendants have practiced Judaism in search of a better world of celebration, justice, security and peace for all. Nearly 50 years ago, the Grateful Dead left the conventional world behind in search of a sound and spirit that would move lives to capture the possibilities of how alluring and joyful life could be. Since then, their fans have followed the music and forged a culture in search of an inspiring joyful spirit that could be shared to create a better world filled with peace and love for all. At their best, both Judaism & the Grateful Dead provide seekers with similar gifts, each in their own language and way. They are spirited dynamic communities who find great significance in life, caring, sharing, celebration and written & oral traditions in the hope of making the world a more joyous and peaceful place for all. Phrases like “Jews for Jerry” and “Blues for Challah” testify to the confluence of these cultures to those who are seriously passionate about both Judaism & the Dead. Many have found incredible insight and inspiration from what both Judaism & the Dead have to offer, resulting in molding people who are truly blessings to humanity. ... teful_dead

I'm also severely hearing impaired (since birth), but that hasn't stopped me from enjoying the Dead either like other "Deafheads." ... ead-shows/

I didn't start listening to them until 1992. I had previously been a "punk" rocker and had no idea what the Dead were about until then. Though I didn't get to see them when Jerry Garcia was alive, I collected bootleg shows and spent the rest of the '90's totally into the Dead. At the same time I was beginning to observe Judaism as well, so the two are actually somewhat entwined in my mind.

I did see a few post-Jerry shows, including their last show in Chicago in 2015 (which was amazing!). ... -_2015.jpg

Any other Dead Heads here?

Re: Grateful Dead

Posted: Wed Mar 09, 2016 7:06 pm
by John2
I've been listening to them for over twenty years and am always finding something new (especially now that all their shows are online). While I tend to like certain years more than others (1972-1974 and 1990), something could be said about every year. For instance, I recently found this show from 1977 (a year most Dead Heads seem to like a lot), and while I haven't listened to all of it yet and I'm not a big 1977 fan, it has a nice Jack Straw (one of my favorite songs), and a commenter says, "if I were to pick a concert I'd play for a musician who 'doesn't like the Dead,' from what I've heard this would be it." ... d1t02.flac

This set list has some examples of religious themes in Dead songs (Friend of the Devil, St. Stephen, Estimated Prophet), and on Sundays they often played a song called Samson and Delilah (including at the show I saw in Chicago). But to me their "spirituality" was more about their music than words.

Wow! That's a strong New Minglewood Blues too ("I was born in the desert, raised in a lion's den").

This show is taking me some time to get to (I found it for the Jack Straw) but it's starting to grow on me. Looks Like Rain and Must Have Been the Roses (two songs I don't normally care to sit through) and El Paso are hitting the spot today, and that is a very interesting Eyes of the World. I still wouldn't call myself a 1977 guy, but I'm discovering a lot of gems and appreciate the year a lot more now.

That's a good St. Stephen too, particularly after 5:00.

That Let It Grow gets crazy too.

Re: Grateful Dead

Posted: Thu Mar 10, 2016 3:25 pm
by John2
I figured I might be the only one but I thought I'd check. And here's another article about the Dead and Judaism:

Deadheads, Jewish and non, bring a Talmudist’s eye to the band’s lyrics, most of them the work of lyricist Robert Hunter.

"Eyes of the World," from the band’s 1973 album "Wake of the Flood," contains messages "about how my behavior in this world is reflected onto others, and how I can reflect divinity," said Leah Chava Reiner, a 52-year-old from Massachusetts whose embrace of her Jewish roots initially manifested through listening to the Dead.

"He’s come to take his children home," a line from one of the band’s best-known songs, "Uncle John’s Band," is a reference to the ingathering of the tribes, according to Moshe Shur, one of the leaders of the retreat weekend.

"There’s something about the music that is so beautiful, it’s religious," said Shur, an Orthodox rabbi who got close to the band while living on a California commune in the 1970s.

"It’s funny to see the way Jews also exchange bits and information about Dead shows and songs like an encyclopedia, the way they do about Talmud, but it makes sense," said David Freelund, one of a number of rabbis who attended the retreat. "As a people, we have an intimate relationship with texts. We are the originals who study and critique text, so of course Jewish Deadheads will dissect lyrics." ... er-stopped

Re: Grateful Dead

Posted: Sat Mar 19, 2016 9:13 am
by arnoldo
This is another good article.
. . . Ripple imagines a “fountain not made by the hands of men,” echoing Mark 14:58 and Hebrews 9:11. Garcia remarked, “When I sing that song…I say to myself, ‘Am I really a Presbyterian minister?’” (D. McNally, The Long Strange Trip: The Insider History of the Grateful Dead, p. 376). Lyricist John Perry Barlow, a college religion major, slyly noted: “You have barely scratched the surface of what we extracted from the Bible alone” (J. Barlow, “Afterward,” in D. Dodd, ed., The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics, pp. 422-23). ... the-bible/

Re: Grateful Dead

Posted: Wed Mar 23, 2016 2:55 pm
by John2

That is a good article, thanks. Makes me get their song Greatest Story Ever Told in my head (which references Moses, Abraham, Isaac and Gideon), and there's a good version of it here in a show from 1972 that starts with Promised Land (like the article mentions was common for shows): ... 08-orf.shn

This show, by the way, is considered to be one of their best, so I thought I'd offer some more impressions. The transition between China Cat Sunflower and I Know You Rider (at 5:00 to 8:00) offers a good example of what is called the "X factor" in the Dead's playing, followed by what I consider to be the best Mexicali Blues. He's Gone, Jack Straw and Bird Song are also nice (with the latter being a favorite), and that is probably my favorite Dark Star and El Paso (and some serious face melting begins about minute 22:00 during Dark Star, if you want to know what that is like). I'm also a fan of Black Throated Wind and tend to be picky about them, and this one is okay (though not my favorite). And Sing Me Back Home is nice when I'm in the mood for it. Also, while I'm not a huge Playing in the Band fan, this a pretty great one here.

Re: Grateful Dead

Posted: Sat Apr 02, 2016 11:01 am
by John2
All I want to do is listen to the Dead today. This is one of my favorite late era shows, and the Foolish Heart here is in my head. It's not an example of a song with biblical references (though it does mention angels, paradise and "coals from Hell"), but it's more about the way they sounded that year, and the guitar solos in Foolish Heart exemplify this for me. This show also has a stand out Jack Straw and Althea (two of my top five Dead songs) and a haunting China Doll. It also has my favorite Desolation Row and Row Jimmy. ... d2t03.flac

Re: Grateful Dead

Posted: Sat Apr 02, 2016 7:39 pm
by John2
I never saw any biblical allusions in the lyrics to China Doll before, but apparently other people do.

I will not condemn you

In keeping with the kind of Christian metaphor here, Jesus was officially condemned by Pontius Pilate. But even more important, Pilate offered the people a choice-- he would release either the thief Barabbas or Jesus. The people wanted Barabbas. Pilate then argued with them that Jesus would be the better choice, but the people insisted on condemning Jesus.

nor yet would I deny

Peter, one of the disciples of Jesus, denied knowing him three times in order to save his own skin. Jesus had predicted this would happen.

Back in the day I would sometimes (humorously) change the last part of "I will not condemn you, nor yet would I deny" to "nor yet would Adonai."

Re: Grateful Dead

Posted: Tue Apr 05, 2016 4:56 pm
by arnoldo

Re: Grateful Dead

Posted: Sat Apr 16, 2016 7:18 pm
by John2
Thanks for the video link, arnoldo. While I have more than a "touch of grey" these days, for me "back in the day" means the '90's, when I first started listening to the Dead.

Though I never got to see them when Jerry Garcia was alive, and there are some good studio recordings, the Dead were more truly themselves when they played live.

Here's a famous example of a spontaneous jam that occurred during a sound check in 1973. I particularly like the last five minutes (beginning about 13:15), which emerges out of noodling.

Re: Grateful Dead

Posted: Fri Apr 29, 2016 11:49 am
by John2
While I'm not into the early Dead (1967-1971), I have a soft spot for their earliest full year, 1966, when they had an innocent "garage band" sound and played electrified versions of songs from their pre-Dead "jug band" era (when they were called Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions) and other songs (including a few originals) that they never played any other year and some that went on to become staples of their repertoire. It's a neat departure from their later sound, while at the same time you can hear the roots of what was to come.

I first started listening to their '66 shows long after I'd been there and done that for other years, during a time when my then wife was in the hospital. I found myself listening to a song called Hey Little One over and over and it reminds me of that time. Coincidently, one day I noticed that someone had left a message for my wife that said "We love you, Little One" and I asked her what that meant, and she said her parents used to call her Little One. And You Don't Have to Ask is an interesting early original that was only played in '66.

As a commenter notes, "If the entire band had gone over Devil's Slide after this performance, their place in the history books would still be ensured based solely on their rendition of Orbison's "Hey Little One" at this show." ... 5d1t03.shn

Another show I like is this one, particularly the songs Mindbender, Standing on the Corner and Cream Puff War (none of which were played after '66 or early '67). ... d1t03.flac