Thursday, July 16, 2015

TBT: The Grateful Dead, "Cumberland Blues."

I am not now, nor was I ever, a Deadhead. I will confess--it is a confession, as I have some friends among the rock cognoscenti who make hatred of the Grateful Dead a kind of verbal secret handshake--that I do like, indeed like very much, some of their stuff. Since they officially disbanded last week, this seems a good time to acknowledge that.

Workingman's Dead is an album I love. All right, I love it mostly because it was the first music I heard after a terrifying ride, helmetless, on the back of a friend's motorcycle along California's coast and cliff hugging Highway One for about twenty miles ("How fast were we going?" "Oh, about eighty on the straights.") in October of 1970. After we re-crossed the Coast Range and headed back into Palo Alto, we stopped at the house of a friend of my friend, who greeted us warmly and invited us in where his wife provided a bottle of liebfraumilch and a pipe filled with Mexico's finest.  Our host asked if we'd heard the new Dead album. We shook our heads "no,"and he put it on. Well the first days are the hardest days, don't you worry anymore.... Yeah! I'm alive!

After I got the album and listened to it a few times, I decided that "Cumberland Blues," with its bluegrass accents, was my favorite. Hear it above.

Poster image: Brooklyn Museum; Wes Wilson.