Jerry Garcia Band, “Ruben And Cherise”

If you took a listen already to Day Of The Dead, the mammoth Grateful Dead tribute collection which was curated by the members of The National and includes many of the most celebrated artists of today covering the band’s music, you might be at a loss to explain the inclusion of “Rubin And Cherise,” a story song done by Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Friends. You have to widen your search beyond the Dead’s catalog to find it; it was done by the Jerry Garcia Band on their lone studio album, 1978’s Cats Under The Stars. The album was a huge commercial disappointment, but it was nonetheless one that Garcia maintained was a favorite of his in later interviews. “Ruben And Cherise” opens up the album with a bit of funky intrigue. The music pulses with life thanks to bold keyboards and Garcia’s guitar, which, filtered in such a way to sand off all its hard edges, flows through the song like liquid gold. Meanwhile the lyrics of longtime Grateful Dead collaborator Robert Hunter are engaging yet elusive, challenging the listener to make sense of this modern musical myth. Set at Carnival in New Orleans, the song features three main characters:…

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