Saturday, October 10, 2009

Running with the Dead: U.S. Blues

Running with the Dead: U.S. Blues
Result: Positive
Best Line: Gimme five, I'm still alive
Link: heavy beat '75 version

The Grateful Dead were not a political group. In the eighties they got into some save-the-rain-forest thing, but that was it. During the sixties, they were asked about Vietnam and the protest movement. But the band refused to bite. Both Garcia and Hunter were ex-military. They thought both sides were full of hot air. Garcia believed that by adding to the conversation, they perpetuated it. And by not engaging, the band fostered an underground community. They unified a group of peaceful, non-materialistic, on-the-road, hedonistic go-nowhere's. Yeah, you know, them hippies.

U.S. Blues is likely the Dead's most political song. And that's simply because it mentions the U.S. The song is charming and sarcastic. With lines like, Wave that flag, wave it wide and high; We're all confused, what's to lose? and I'll drink your health, share your wealth, they opted out of any serious debate. Which I think is fine. If the rest of society is acting ridiculous, why play along? Anyway, I really like this song; both the lyrics and the heavy beat are excellent for running. It is a smart song that deftly shows what great showmen the Dead were:

I'm Uncle Sam /that's who I am
Been hidin' out/in a rock and roll band
Shake the hand that shook the hand
Of P.T. Barnum/and Charlie Chan

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