Deadheads are a loyal bunch. With their dedication to all things Grateful Dead, and anything adjacent to them, we predict that there aren’t many songs from the group’s catalog that they aren’t intimately familiar with.
Videos by American Songwriter
But, for the more casual listeners who want to take a deeper dive into the Dead, we’re here with a few (of a long list) deep cuts from the group to get you started. Let’s look at five deep cuts from the Grateful Dead that deserve a closer look.
1. “Black Peter” (from Workingman’s Dead, 1970)
Composed by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, “Black Peter” was something of a staple for the Grateful Dead in the early ’70s, having been played nearly 350 times. Though there aren’t any overt allusions (save lyrics that mention “Peter” by name towards the end of the track), “Black Peter” is a character from Dutch folklore who travels with St. Nicholas. Many Deadheads have theorized that this song was written from that character’s point of view.
2. “Till The Morning Comes” (from American Beauty, 1970)
Perhaps in the grey area of what constitutes a deep cut, “Till The Morning Comes” has long been a favorite of Deadheads the world over. Also, given the collosol commercial success of American Beauty, it can be hard to find a song from that record that is widely unknown. However, for the more casual fan, “Till The Morning Comes” could be a lesser-known album cut that can open up a whole new world in the Dead zeitgeist.
3. “Weather Report Suite” (from Wake of the Flood, 1973)
On their 1973 album, Wake of the Flood, Bob Weir delivers this 12-minute musical adventure that darts around genres, ushering in a new era for the Dead. Winter rain, now tell me why, Summers fade, and roses die / The answer came; the wind and rain / Golden hills, now veiled in gray, Summer leaves have blown away / Now what remains? The wind and rain, Weir sings in this gem of a deep cut.
4. “China Doll” (from From the Mars Hotel, 1974)
A setlist staple for the group in the early ’70s, “China Doll” tells a grim story of suicide overtop a haunting guitar riff. The entire song keeps a somber mood with a hypnotizing synth and a wailing guitar solo from Garcia.
5. “Crazy Fingers” (from Blues For Allah, 1975)
Opening side two of Blues For Allah is this great Garcia and Hunter-penned track, “Crazy Fingers.” Featuring a buoyant synth line and waltzing reggae beat, “Crazy Fingers” is psychedelia of the highest caliber and sure to make a Deadhead out of anyone.
The Grateful Dead (Photo: Clayton Call)