For the Sake of the Song: Grateful Dead “Ripple”

It is sometimes wrongly assumed that the Grateful Dead’s studio records were mere templates for the live versions of the songs, and while this is certainly true for certain songs, this doesn’t mean they couldn’t capture magic in the studio. ‘Ripple’ is one of the greatest Garcia-Hunter songs, and the performance on 1970’s ‘American Beauty’ is certainly one of the best versions, if not the best. Robert Hunter wrote the lyrics in London on the same afternoon he wrote those for ‘Brokedown Palace’ and ‘To Lay Me Down’, and Jerry Garcia wrote the music when he was touring with the Festival Express in Canada. The lyrics are quite metaphysical and examine the changing times and what is the real world view but Hunter’s lyrics are also very singable, particularly when matched with Garcia’s gospel-inspired music. As a bonus, Garcia’s friend David Grisman, who was at a loose end after his band Earth Opera had disbanded, added perfect mandolin accompaniment to this acoustic track. ‘Ripple’ is one of the most covered Grateful Dead songs, with fine versions by Chris Hillman and The Band’s Rick Danko.

“Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow”

About Martin Johnson 357 Articles
I've been a music obsessive for more years than I care to admit to. Part of my enjoyment from music comes from discovering new sounds and artists while continuing to explore the roots of American 20th century music that has impacted the whole of world culture.
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