Sunday, May 03, 2020

Texts and Instrumental passages in Grateful Dead songs

In Grateful Dead songs, instrumental passages often contribute to the narrative or argument. In "Cassidy", the lines before the final improvisation set up the shift from words to instruments: "Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine." The return of words at the jam's end is then also thematized: "Flight of the seabirds, scattered like lost words." Other songs also conclude jams with comments on what the band just played, as in "Uncle John's Band" ("How does the song go?") and especially "Let It Grow": "What shall say, shall we call it by a name?" The preceding improvisation has no name – except perhaps the band's proper name: The Grateful Dead. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 3 May)

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