April 13, 2016

Grateful Dead - Ripple (1970)

The Grateful Dead began recording their American Beauty album just a few months after the band had released Workingman’s Dead. The close proximity of the two works has led many Deadheads to consider the two albums as a pair. Some of the notable aspects of the album were its abundant folk influences, as well as its improved and more complex harmonies. The latter was in thanks to Crosby, Stills & Nash, who had been giving the Dead tips on how to harmonize and sing together. The two bands had had their social circles intersect more and more at that time, as CSN had been recording their album Déjà Vu at Wally Heider Studios, the same place the Dead were recording American Beauty.

With music written by Jerry Garcia and lyrics by Robert Hunter, the song below was released as the opening track to Side Two of American Beauty. And when the group’s famed “Truckin’” was chosen from that album to be released as a single, it was the song below which accompanied it as its B-Side. Hunter’s lyrics were said to have been written after drinking half of a bottle of retsina; and much of the lyrics seem to have been influenced by the 23rd Psalm of the Bible.

album art

Grateful Dead - Ripple (1970)

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If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung
Would you hear my voice come through the music?
Would you hold it near as it were your own?

It’s a hand-me-down; the thoughts are broken
Perhaps they’re better left unsung
I don’t know- don’t really care
Let there be songs to fill the air

Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow

Reach out your hand if your cup be empty
If your cup is full, may it be again
Let it be known there is a fountain
That was not made by the hands of men

There is a road- no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go, no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone

Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow

You who choose to lead must follow
But if you fall, you fall alone
If you should stand, then who’s to guide you?
If I knew the way, I would take you home

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