All I know is something like a bird within him sang
All I know he sang a little while and then flew on
That’s how Phil Lesh sings Bird Song these days, changing the song’s subject from Janis Joplin, as originally written by Robert Hunter, to Jerry Garcia, who died 20 years ago today, having just turned 53 years old.
Hunter wrote the lyrics soon after Joplin’s much more premature, heroin-related death and they are little more than an amazed reflection on a mercurial talent – a more articulate version of ‘Wow, man, she sure could sing!’ Their application to Garcia’s playing (and, to a lesser extent, singing) is entirely appropriate.
Look and listen:
A rainbow appears at the end of the first Fare Thee Well show’s first set. Was it real, fake or Jerry?
The music started again this weekend, not in some muddy Somerset field but in a soulless US football stadium in California.
A momentous musical event ignored completely by the UK media, I’m hungry for more information, impressions and feedback than I can glean from the web. Fintan!
I thought The Who managed to keep going fairly well for their 60-minute set; 75-year-old Phil Lesh kept going through 3.5 hours, almost non-stop. Reports seem to indicate that some of the music was pretty good too.
And Cinco de Mayo too. So apparently today is the actual date of the Dead’s 50th anniversary, brought to my attention by a Beast article, for what that’s worth. If there’s a tribute post to be written here, i’m not really the one to do it. But i did want to drop this video from their Meet Up at the Movies, apparently screened yesterday, from the July 19, 1989 show in Wisconsin. (unfortunately, WP won’t take the embed, so a link will have to do.) Jerry’s voice sounds like shit, but love this beautiful guitar on Sugaree.
Think one of he Beast commenters said it best –
Fare you well, fare you well
I love you more than words can tell
Listen to the river sing sweet songs
To rock my soul
When they announced three Fare Thee Well shows in Chicago to celebrate the Grateful Dead’s 50th birthday, I wasn’t that interested. Why spend a fortune to see an ‘almost’ version of a band I love yet which faded long ago? The shenanigans around ticketing, reported on dead.net, confirmed my view.
But then they posted a sweet message announcing two more shows on Bay Area home turf and a lottery-style, fair-ish way of getting seats. Suddenly, I felt I was being invited to a party with 65,000 friends, so I committed to spending hundreds of dollars on tickets and a grand or so on flights and accommodation…..
Came across this Grateful Medicine article in my feed this morning, by a practicing and academic Deadhead psychiatrist round my neck of the woods here convinced of the theraputic healing powers of the Dead. Which reminded me that i had wanted to get around to doing my own Deadlist for awhile.
I’ve been intending to post something about the GD May ’77 box set that arrived three months ago. It contains some great music (particularly on the more delicate songs) but this week’s arrival has rather put it (almost literally) in the shade.
The official release of the 1972 Springfield Creamery Benefit concert and the film made of it, Sunshine Daydream, is a marvellous thing. A long-available soundboard recording and bootleg copy of the film on YT have hinted as much but the properly-mixed 16-track sound and a beautifully-restored set of visuals confirm it in spades.
Jerry Garcia couldn’t understand why anyone would want to film the band on stage (“We just stand there. We don’t do anything.”) but, with the addition of Prankster animations and copious shots of roasting hippies, the film is a fantastic document of a communal celebration of life through music. For example:
(Warning: contains naked human wobbly bits)
The film shows the final Dark Star/El Paso/Sing Me Back Home sequence, in which a star dies, two cowboys are killed and a prisoner walks to his execution. Whereas much of the show is suitably sunny and joyful, this is not: it is difficult, harsh and desperately sad. Yet also wonderfully cathartic.
This is the end of Dark Star. It is some of the most involving and intricate acid jazz* collective improvisation you’ll ever hear. To watch it being constructed from thin air is a jaw-dropping delight.
*Acid jazz = jazz improvised whilst under the influence of LSD.