The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics

The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics

by David G. Dodd

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Celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the most popular and enduring band ever: “Even the most hardcore Deadheads will be impressed by this obsessively complete look at the Grateful Dead’s lyrics” (Publishers Weekly).

The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics is an authoritative text, providing standard versions of all the original songs you thought you knew forwards and backwards. These are some of the best-loved songs in the modern American songbook. They are hummed and spoken among thousands as counterculture code and recorded by musicians of all stripes for their inimitable singability and obscure accessibility. How do they do all this? To provide a context for this formidable body of work, of which his part is primary, Robert Hunter has written a foreword that goes to the heart of the matter. And the annotations on sources provide a gloss on the lyrics, which goes to the roots of Western culture as they are incorporated into them.

An avid Grateful Dead concertgoer for more than two decades, David Dodd is a librarian who brings to the work a detective’s love of following a clue as far as it will take him. Including essays by Dead lyricists Robert Hunter and John Perry and Jim Carpenter’s original illustrations, whimsical elements in the lyrics are brought to light, showcasing the American legend that is present in so many songs. A gorgeous keepsake edition of the Dead’s official annotated lyrics, The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics is an absolute must-have for the fiftieth anniversary—you won’t think of this cultural icon the same way again. In fact, founding band member Bob Weir said: “This book is great. Now I’ll never have to explain myself.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439103340
Publisher: Free Press
Publication date: 12/16/2014
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 99,162
File size: 32 MB
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About the Author

David Dodd is the author of The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics. The founder of The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics website and coeditor of The Grateful Dead Reader and The Grateful Dead and the Deadheads: An Annotated Bibliography, he is the city librarian of San Rafael, California.

Read an Excerpt

The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics


Free Press

ISBN: 0743277473


"A scrap of age-old Lullabye down some forgotten street..."

-- Robert Hunter, "Standing on the Moon"

Grateful Dead lyrics can contain the world. I've worked on the annotations found attached to the collected lyrics in this book for more than ten years, and I'm always finding new references, resonances, and refractions. They change as I change. The shades of meaning correspond to my age, the state of the world, the context of our times. After September 11, 2001, Robert Hunter, whose daughter lost a dear friend in the disaster in New York City, wrote movingly in his online journal about playing "Terrapin Station" and repeating the line "hold away despair" over and over again. So, even for their author, these words can capture new meaning as change arises in our lives and in our world.

Twenty years ago, I set out to discover who Crazy Otto was. That's all, I swear. I didn't mean to wind up annotating the entire body of lyrics. But Crazy Otto led to Billy Sunday. And then I started to wonder about the whole song, "Ramble On Rose." Nonsense? Profundity? I submitted my annotated version of the song to Blair Jackson, hoping for publication in his magazine for Grateful Dead fans, Golden Road. He kindly but firmly refused me. I set the project aside, but then I started to wonder about Mr. Benson, from "Candyman." Who was he? And what about "China Cat Sunflower?" Robert Hunter, in the interviews I could track down, dropped clues here and there about his songwriting, but he was absolute in his refusal to state, for the record, what any given song meant. This intrigued me. I felt that I had found a poet who acknowledged that meaning accrues as much according to individual readings, hearings, and perceptions as from the authority of the author. I made notes on piles of discarded catalog cards -- a handy side product of the automation of library catalogs.

When the World Wide Web hit, in 1994 or so, I was working as a cataloger at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. I was an academic by default, in a tenure-track faculty position. I needed a research project, and it occurred to me that the web was wonderfully suited to literary annotation -- as far as I know, The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics, the website I began, was the first use of hypertext to annotate any kind of literary text. I spent an ungodly number of hours putting the site together. The book you hold in your hands is the result, though perhaps not the end result. And while The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics website may have been the first of its kind, it certainly wasn't the last, as other annotated-lyrics projects sprang up on the web, including sites for the lyrics of Van Morrison, the Beastie Boys, R.E.M., the Pogues, and Jethro Tull, among others.

Early on, I realized that the project was not mine alone. Over the past ten years, I've probably averaged five emails per day from people weighing in on the lyrics in one form or another. I began to incorporate these readers' comments into the site. I started the ball rolling, and I've been running along after it ever since, trying to keep up. It's hopeless. There are many more thoughts and theories out there than I can ever hope to capture or do justice to on the website. Many of them are included in this book, and they'll continue to come. I hope the margins are big enough for readers to add their own notes.

My work area at home is itself an illustration of the nature of the process of compiling this book. Two shelves of books directly relating to the Grateful Dead are supplemented by stacks of books haphazardly piled on the floor, on the computer desk, and on any other available surface, including atop the two-volume compact edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. They include an edition of Hoyle's Rules of Games, a United States gazetteer, books on native plants of California, Grzimek's encyclopedia volumes relating to birds, dictionaries of phrases and allusions, quotation books, and an early edition of Hortus, the definitive reference on gardening. Several shelves of poetry are also near at hand, and across the room, piled on top of and beside my piano, are stacks of songbooks. It is a highly untidy library, but I know where everything is. From these sources I extract most of what I need for the annotations. It's not a neat or straightforward process. I've also had to spend considerable time (in addition to my work time as a librarian) in actual libraries, and that has been a joy.

There are two guiding metaphors for the project: First, if you ever went to see the Grateful Dead at Winterland, you'll remember the revolving mirrored ball hanging from the ceiling, which was turned on at high points in any given show. It scattered light around the room but never really illuminated anything. That's one metaphor for the annotations: a mirror ball. The other is more of a notion than a metaphor: What if, when you started to read something, you came upon a reference or a phrase or a concept that you didn't fully understand, and before you could continue, you had to go and read up on that? And if in reading the next thing, you again came across something new and unfamiliar, and you then had to research that before proceeding? Would you ever finish the first thing you started reading? Hypertext is like that to me. I fear for our ability to read in a sustained fashion any longer. We're distractible. We jump around a lot on the Internet, and the neurological implications are probably greater than we realize. The upcoming generations may not be able to read in the way that our and earlier generations think of reading. That doesn't mean they won't be gaining knowledge and adding to the incremental increase of knowledge in coming generations -- it'll just be different.

So: My intent here is to allow for an expanded experience of the lyrics of the Grateful Dead, without providing interpretation. If there's a reference to an old folk song, I want to provide some information about that song. You should be able to track down real people mentioned in the songs. Same with places. Occasionally, I'll talk about a particular symbol, but that's bordering on interpretation, so I don't do that too much. The symbols that recur throughout the lyrics (roses, trains, cats, cards...) receive annotations as they come up, as needed.

What's included? All of the original lyrics written for the Grateful Dead. A small subset of the traditional tunes and covers performed by the band are also included, because they play a large part in giving context to the other songs. I wish I could have included them all, but that would have proved impractical. Some songs are heavily annotated; some are not. I hope that the level of annotation is appropriate to each song -- some simply don't require elucidation.

We settled, after some deliberation, on the side-note style of annotation, which is a common and respected format. It's also the style used in one of my own favorite examples of the art of the book, in San Francisco printer John Henry Nash's edition of Dante's Divine Comedy.

Working on the project with Alan Trist, the Grateful Dead's publisher, has been a privilege and a pleasure. His long experience with the catalog, and his thoughtful editing, added a missing perspective. We had definite ideas on how the book should be presented, and I trust our vision comes through enough that you now hold in your hands a book for the ages. The lyrics, of course, varied at times from performance to performance, but the versions here may be considered "standard," which means you might settle the occasional bar bet. Or not! Where brackets are found in the lyrics, we have been unable to be absolutely certain about the words, so you can fill them in yourself.

I don't want it to go without saying that the words of Robert Hunter, John Barlow, and all the others who wrote lyrics for the Grateful Dead are the primary inspiration for this book: Thank you to all the wordsmiths. To the Grateful Dead, thanks for bringing this music to us all.

Elizabeth Stein and Dominick Anfuso of Free Press deserve special thanks for their almost unbelievable patience in working with what must have seemed at times like a herd of kitty-cats, any of whom might, at any given moment, show claws. Thank you, Sandy Choron, my agent, and her husband, Harry Choron, who designed the book. To my long-suffering colleagues at the Kraemer Family Library at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs: Thank you, Rita Hug, Laurie Williams, and everyone else at UCCS. Professor Fred Lieberman of the University of California at Santa Cruz arranged for the website to be hosted by UCSC and has been a supporter of my work for a long time. Steve Silberman, who weighed in early and enthusiastically, gave me a big boost. Thanks to David Gans, Mary Eisenhart, and everyone at the WELL, especially those on the Deadlit and Deadsongs conferences. Thanks to Blair Jackson, whose work permeates these pages. Thank you to Robert Weiner, my co-author and friend, who published an early version of "The Annotated 'Ramble on Rose'." Thanks to Alex Allan, for his indispensable Lyric and Song-Finder website and for his frequent contributions to my own site. Mary Minow, lawyer and librarian extraordinaire, has provided counsel regarding permissions. Also, thanks to my friend Joe Cochrane, a reference librarian's reference librarian, for his careful reading of this work in draft. (All errors are mine, though!) The staff of San Rafael's Panama Hotel were very tolerant of our long sessions at their tables. Diana Spaulding, my wife, you make it all worthwhile.

-- David Dodd

Petaluma, California

May 2005

Copyright 2005 by David Dodd


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