Vale, the Grateful Dead after 50 years: a global version of ‘Ripple’

July 9, 2015 • 4:49 am

by Matthew Cobb

I suspect a fair number of readers are, or were, Dead-heads. And it’s also probable that many of you will never have knowingly heard a Grateful Dead song. Either way, here’s a treat. The Dead have just completed their final concert, 50 years on. In the words of one of their best-known songs, what a long strange trip it’s been…

To mark the Dead bowing out, Playing for Change (“a multimedia movement created to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music”) has released this loving, lyrical and globally multi-musician version of “Ripple”, a beautiful song from the Dead’s 1970 album “American Beauty” which continued the country-influenced sound of the preceding album, “Workingman’s Dead“, which was released a mere four months earlier. Both LPs contrasted with the extended psychedelic jams that they had been know for, although in fact there was a real continuity. Anyway, here’s the music:

Here’s the lovely cover of American Beauty, by Mouse-Kelley Studios. I still have my vinyl LP copy somewhere. The tiny CD version of the cover doesn’t do it justice.

27 thoughts on “Vale, the Grateful Dead after 50 years: a global version of ‘Ripple’

    1. Speaking of the Doors, just saw a film last night of a Covent Garden (Royal Opera House) production of the Brecht/Weil opera The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, which features the original of Show Me the Way to the Next Whiskey Bar. Who knew?

  1. I have numerous friends who believe that Grateful Dead are over-rated hacks. I’ve never understood this. They composed some of the most beautiful music I know.

    1. I wouldn’t go any where near that far, but the Dead never appealed to me. I’ve heard a good deal of them because I’ve known plenty of Dead Heads, and their music is typically just boring to me. I don’t hate it, but I would never choose to listen to it, unless maybe as a sleep aid.

    2. There is a joke: What did the Deadhead say when he sobered up? “Hey, this music sucks.”

      But, I am like you. I like the Dead and have a number of their albums as well as several concert tapes that I copied from friends. I always regret never seeing them live.

      I also have two CDs from a great band in California called Wake the Dead that mixes Grateful Dead songs with Irish instrumental tunes, which I like as I play Irish trad music–or at least I try to play it.

  2. This “Ripple” collaboration is a great tribute to the great Jerry Garcia. I am a proud Dead Head with many Dead Head friends. (But I also have friends who think they are over-rated.)

    The Dead were a very talented group who had many good nights and many bad nights! But, when you play that many shows, you cannot possibly have a good night every night. I would also like to point out that the Dead were never in it for the fame and the money. They just wanted to play music and I think that is admirable. I have heard Jerry had a hard time with the fame part of it.

    And, it is true: There is nothing like a Grateful Dead show.

    Recently, I saw a woman at one of the Fare Thee Well shows in Santa Clara being interviewed and she said the Grateful Dead were like a “religion” and either you get it or you don’t. I thought that was an interesting way to look at it. Maybe I do have “religion” after all!

    One last thing: I have been told that the American Beauty album cover also says “American Reality” when you look at it closely. 🙂

  3. Thanks for this! Ripple is a beautiful song, it always makes me kind of wistful. What a great way to start the day. Now if I could break free from YouTube…

  4. That Ripple “Playing for Change” video brought tears to my eyes, and I don’t even understand why. It just struck me as being that beautiful in some very deep way.

  5. I can’t claim to be an actual deadhead, as I never got the opportunity to see them in concert, although I saw Phil Lesh and Friends on several wonderful occasions. But still, they had a huge impact on my life, sometimes for the worse, but their music, especially the acoustic songs, will always be cherished as the soundtrack to my 20’s.

    I was heartbroken to miss my one chance to see the dead, in St. Louis, just before Jerry died. It sent me on a desperate mission, to see every show by every possible musician I loved whenever they came near me, so I wouldn’t make that same mistake in assuming they’d always be there. Thankfully, this led me to see BB King numerous times, Johnny Johnson (piano player for Chuck Berry) Son Seals, John Entwistle, and Bo Diddley, among many wonderful others.

    1. BB King was a great show every time I saw him (3), all in the ’80s. There is a good documentary of his life available on Netflix right now.

  6. A very beautiful song from one of the great albums of the rock era, from a band that always escaped definition. The head Deadhead of my acquaintance has about 150 Dead bootleg albums, of wildly varying quality. But it was never the same since Jerry died. Well worth checking out his other work with the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band, New Riders of the Purple Sage and collaborations with David Grisman, such as “Old and in the Way.”

  7. Thanks for this tribute. I followed the Dead in the late 80’s. I lived in California, so they played there a lot. It was always a blast and a half. I saw them a few years back at the Gorge (a really great venue in Washington). Duane Allman played Jerry’s part…he’s a great guitarist, but nothing like Jerry. They played a great cover of Dylan’s Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues. They always did magnificent Dylan covers. American Beauty is one of their best studio albums, though I only listen to bootlegs nowadays…when I do listen to the Dead. They remind me of a past love, so now they are somewhat tainted for me; I hate when bad life shit can affect enjoying music.

    1. There’s an album of Dylan covers, Postcards Of the Hanging, much recommended. Not recommended is Dylan & The Dead, which is Bob Dylan ruining a collection of Dead covers.

  8. American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead are absolute classics! I was too old already to become a true “deadhead” but learned later in life to appreciate them. I used to play “Ripple” in my music appreciation classes in the 1990s and 2000s, to rather lukewarm response. 🙂 I also love “Uncle John’s Band”, “Box of Rain,” and “Attics of My Life.”

  9. I had not heard of Playing of Change. What a cool idea. Joined up as soon as I could drag myself away from this version of Ripple.

  10. Best Dead venue that I attended, twice, was at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland, in the 80s. Outdoors, and you could get fairly close to the band.

    Worst was the first Dead show I ever saw, in the 70s, at War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo NY. It was a hockey rink and they just threw big sheets of hardboard on top of the ice, which progressively melted through the show.

    They were remarkable not for their songs but for the incredible improvisational jams, which is why Dead heads collect show recordings – every show is completely unique, and usually lasts at least 5 hours. So, literally, you had to be there.

  11. I recall the 25th anniversary shows at Radio City Music Hall in 1980. I had the pleasure of attending six of the eight shows. They ended their acoustic set each and every night with Ripple!
    Really cool that they closed FTW with Ripple, a beautiful and poignant song.
    My only problem with Fare The Well, which was attended by a number of my Head friends, was the constant referral to this band as the Grateful Dead. Sorry, the Grateful Dead’s last show was in Chicago but in 1995. Calling these guys the Grateful Dead without Jerry Garcia is like calling the Stones the Rolling Stones without Mick Jagger! After trying to correct the world with my strident corrections, I gave up!!!

Leave a Reply