Friday, July 3, 2009

For a Song: U S Blues

Grateful Dead: U S Blues


It’s my first July Fourth week on my own blog, and I can’t think of a more appropriate song to share for my weekly song feature. Here is the Grateful Dead’s celebration of our country, with all its warts.

The Grateful Dead cooked jazz, blues, bluegrass, country and folk into their musical stew. Their music, for me, was a starting point in exploring many of these musical forms. Those are all important elements of what I present here. But U S Blues is pure rock and roll.

Nowadays, it is tempting to think of the Grateful Dead as the inventors of jam band music. But their approach to live performance represented an expression of freedom that could be found in many bands from the sixties, including other members of the San Francisco scene, such as the Jefferson Airplane, but also including British bands such as Creem. What set the Grateful Dead apart was that they stayed with this approach long after their fellow jammers had gotten away from it. The freedom of a Grateful Dead performance included the freedom to fall flat on their faces, but also produced moments of transcendence. Not unlike the experiment that is America.


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