3 Eternal Grateful Dead Songs that Have Stood the Test of Time

When you think of the idea of a jam band, the Palo Alto, California-born group the Grateful Dead must come to mind. Fronted by the bearded Jerry Garcia, the Dead, as they were known, would play extended concerts, elongating their songs from five to 10 to 15 to 20 minutes and beyond. Songs with solos that made would you feel as if you were tripping (and maybe you were).

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But while the group’s live shows are iconic, with thousands of fans traveling with the group from stop to stop, the Dead also recorded songs that will live on for generations. Here below, we wanted to dive into a trio of those tunes. Indeed, these are three eternal Grateful Dead songs that have already stood the test of time.

[RELATED: 5 Must-Hear Tracks that Feature Two Drummers]

“Casey Jones” from Workingman’s Dead (1970)

In this song released on their 1970 LP Workingman’s Dead, a train operator is in some trouble. He’s on drugs, another train is coming for him, a switch operator is asleep, and it’s just not going to a be a very good day. But more than the narrative of the song, it just sounds good. Despite the hectic story, the track is mellow. It feels like a stream and you’re on an inner tube. That’s why this song has lasted and will continue to last. It puts the listener in a specific mood and it’s pleasant the whole time—despite the impending crash. On the song, lead singer Jerry Garcia sings,

Driving that train
High on cocaine
Casey Jones you better
Watch your speed
Trouble ahead
Trouble behind
And you know that notion
Just crossed my mind

This old engine makes it on time
Leaves Central Station
‘Bout a quarter to nine
Hits River Junction at seventeen to
At a quarter to ten
You know it’s travelin’ again

“Truckin'” from American Beauty (1970)

Another song that just feels good to listen to, this guitar- and drum-driven track talks about a drug raid made on the band. But the song could be in Latin for all that really matters in the end. We’re floating on Bob Weir and Garcia’s singing. The almost spoken-word lyrical delivery between the harmonies is another lovely touch. But when the rubber meets the road, the group is singing at the end of the song about being “set up” like a “bowling pin.” Though they’re trying to travel and be easy with their lives, they can’t. Indeed, the group sings,

Sitting And Staring Out Of A Hotel Window
Got A Tip They’re Kicking The Door In Again
I’d Like To Get Some Sleep Before I Travel
But If You Got A Warrant I Guess You’re Gonna Come In
Busted – Down On Bourbon Street
Set Up – Like A Bowling Pin

“Friend of the Devil” from American Beauty (1970)

This song has a strong Americana or folk sensibility, with a strummed acoustic and what could be a washtub bass. Covered by a number of big name artists, from Bob Dylan and Tom Petty to Dave Matthews and Mumford & Sons, this track is a classic. Even though it sounds sweet, the chorus is one that makes it memorable. It’s about being acquainted with the darker or even depraved things in life, something the group was not shy about. Sings Garcia,

Ran into the Devil, babe
He loaned me twenty bills
I spent the night in Utah
In a cave up in the hills

Set out runnin’ but I take my time
A friend of the Devil is a friend of mine
If I get home before daylight
I just might get some sleep tonight

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