I missed out on the Grateful Dead until I was in my thirties. For years I thought Jerry Garcia was a flavor of ice cream. What went wrong? Why were none of the top-40 stations playing the Dead when I was a teenager?
Because they’re top-40, that’s why.
The big mystery is why the guys in the dorm weren’t playing the Dead either. We all played Led Zeppelin, The Who and the Rolling Stones. Not to mention the Beatles and Bob Dylan. And Joni Mitchell.
Ah, Joni. She’s for another post.
The first time I heard the Grateful Dead’s “Ripple” I thought, “That could be a hymn. Just tweak the lyrics.”
So I wasn’t surprised a few weeks ago when I was playing “Ripple” (more or less) on the piano and my wife said, “Oh! I know what you’re playing, but it sounds like that Gaither hymn, what’s the name? ‘Because He Lives.’”
Jerry Garcia: “If my words did glow…”
Bill and Gloria Gaither: “God sent his son…”
Jerry: “With the gold of sunshine…”
Bill and Gloria: “They called him Jesus…”
Coincidence? Maybe. So the next question was which came first. I pulled out the hymnal from First Baptist and looked at the date on “Because He Lives.” 1971. Then my American Beauty CD. Released in vinyl in 1970.
Jerry had them beat by one year, and this begs the question:
Are Bill and Gloria Gaither closet Deadheads?
Would it matter if they were?
Check out the following videos. Ripple, in this bootleg recording, is performed not by the entire Dead but by Jerry Garcia with David Grisman on mandolin. Grisman was on the original recording but with this lively interpretation he makes the mandolin an act all by itself–the mandolin is talking to Jerry and cheering him on–yet without detracting from Jerry’s vocals and guitar.
The second video is by the Gaither Vocal Band. The similarity in the two songs starts to break down after the first lines, but here you go. It’s Easter all year. Enjoy. “Let there be songs to fill the air.”
Hmm. Didn’t Martin Luther say something like that 500 years ago? “Let’s have all the music in the world, that the devil not have all the fun.”
Does that make Jerry a closet Lutheran?