Friday, May 18, 2012

The Plant Kingdom: Sugar Magnolia

Grateful Dead: Sugar Magnolia
[purchase Europe '72 version]

I grew up in a house with 2 magnolia trees in the yard. One was a venerable tree with a diameter (not circumference) close to 3 feet and a height nearing 50 feet – beautiful, huge white flowers. The other was a third-the-size, pink-flowered tree, and we knew it as a “Japanese” magnolia. Among other specimens of the plantae phylum in that same garden were numerous fig, plum, chestnut, walnut, linden, bay and pine trees (it was a large property in a rather exotic location)

However- more to the point I intended to focus on- there are several Grateful Dead songs that reference plants, among them: China Cat Sunflower, Ramble on Rose, Scarlet Begonias … Further, the Internet Archive (bless their hearts/support them if you can) continues to offer up legally-free live recordings of Grateful Dead music.

My choice here: Sugar Magnolia, has more than one reference to plants. The lyrics include the words “willows”, “rushes”, “tall trees”, “pines”, “roses” ….all related to this week’s focus: Plant Kingdom.  Your interpretation of what the Grateful Dead meant by their lyrics is up to you: “we can have high times ..”

Not for naught, the Dead’s Europe ‘72 album offers up perhaps the best version of Sugar Magnolia, but it is no longer available at The Internet Archive, however, does offer many (many) alternate versions – all free for the taking. The one above was recorded considerably later than the ‘72 album release date, but it seems to have both the best sound quality as well as the best musical/band coherence of the many versions you can download from the above resource.

After the fact, I see that Ramone666 posted a version of this way back in 2008, but the mp3 appears to no longer be accessible, so maybe my post will bring it back to life/water the plant once again.

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