Sunday, July 10, 2022

Begins with a J: Jack Straw


purchase [Europe 72]

Back when I was in colllege I had a guitar-playing friend named Dickster whose band focused on Grateful Dead covers. Well before that time, I had already zeroed in on The Dead myself as a band very much worth listening to.

Many years later, as I perused the repository of live music and noticed that the Grateful Dead were very amenible to free dissemination of their concert recordings (somewhat less so now), my respect for them increased. (16,000 + media here)

There's a lot written about the Dead's <Jack Straw> that I would be theiving to post as original here, but I'll summarize the story:

Apparently Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir and lyricist Robert Hunter took the basic story line of Steinbeck's <Of Mice and Men> and worked it over several permutations into a final version that told the story of two outlaws::Shannon and Jack Straw.

The [final] version has Jerry Garcia singing/narrating the role of the outlaw Shannon while Weir relates Jack's version.

David Dodd takes the story on in minute detail with alternative interpretations of who does what to whom (murder, rob, bury...) but what comes across is one of the finest musical stories of both the Grateful Dead's extensive repertoire as well as a song that vies for all-time classic.

Before I read Dodd's in-depth essay, I had simply enjoyed the song on its surface value: somewhat typical Dead: laidback tempo, great collaboration of the band all around. The Dodd article adds so much more depth.