Saturday, February 25, 2006
The Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan
Grateful Dead, "When I Paint My Masterpiece"
Grateful Dead, "She Belongs To Me"
Grateful Dead, "Maggie's Farm"
Grateful Dead, "Desolation Row"
Grateful Dead, "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"
We've reached the end of the road with this Grateful Dead excursion, on to bigger and better things next week. Since I mentioned Bob Dylan in the context of the Grateful Dead, it seems fitting to bring those two figures together in these posts to close this series out. Dylan and the Dead have always had a special place in my heart, and so I want to highlight the important place that Dylan's songs played in the life of the Grateful Dead.
Honestly, these songs are good, but they are missing something to my ears. They tend to lose Dylan's voice, his darkness and anger. The closest the Dead come is in their beautiful and rare version of "She Belongs To Me," which achieves all of the sense of heartbreak and loss and emotional turmoil that the original had. However, I think for many people these might sound perfect, easier on the ears than Dylan's versions. Let's be honest, Dylan's most popular songs are the ones that were covered by Jimi Hendrix, The Byrds and Peter, Paul and Mary. Listen for yourself and decide.
The Dead and Dylan toured once in 1987, for a much maligned tour and album. Dylan was not at his peak, struggling with addiction, a less-than-stellar backing band and a worsening voice. It was best forgotten, a lost opportunity. After that, there were a few opening dates for Dylan on Dead tours, but nothing major. No, the way to see the influence is in their use of each other's songbooks for live shows. Dylan still plays an occasional Dead song to this day, an enduring testament to the influence and respect he has for their music. Above are some examples of the Dead's.
-For those interested in further exploring the Grateful Dead and their music, I cannot recommend the Live Music Archive more highly. It is a database of nearly every recorded Grateful Dead concert in existence, available for your listening pleasure. It is an amazing resource, albeit a bit diminished.
As of today, you can only download audience recordings; soundboards can only be streamed. I'm not going to get into the controversy, but I will say that this was a terrible decision on the part of the band and a reverse in the open, sharing philosophy that has guided the band and its fans.
-Deadbase is another great resource, especially for guidance in exploring the band's history and the thousands of shows they played over the years. If you need to know how many times they played Philly in the 70s or how many times they played "Sugar Magnolia" as an encore, and I don't want to know what desperation lies behind such a need, this is the place to go.
-GD Radio is a streaming site bringing you nothing but the music of the Grateful Dead, a good option for those of us without Sirius.
-My first experience with the band's music came through David Gans' radio program, The Grateful Dead Hour, which ran weekly on WXPN in Philly. Well, it's still going strong years later after the band stopped existing, and I cannot recommend it more highly for those new to the band's music or unsure where to go for the best live stuff. David Gans even keep a blog detailing each episode the program.