What is the Grateful Dead’s “signature song”?

Grateful Dead

What is the Grateful Dead’s “signature song”?


Dark Star – the quintessential jam song, opener of their iconic Live/Dead LP and vehicle for many of their furthest out musical explorations.

Uncle John’s Band – Opener of their best studio album, the classic Workingman’s Dead. A reviewer called it ‘the Dead’s own jingle,’ and it was a staple of both AOR and Dead concerts.

Playin’ in the Band – The most frequently played song in the time signature of 10/8 in rock history. A vehicle for some of their deepest jams in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Touch of Grey – Their only top 20 single, a concert staple in the 80s and 90s. I like the song, but my faith in humanity will dim significantly if you pick this.

Fire on the Mountain – a late debut, since the band’s best period was 68-74, but its insistent groove and mutron guitar effect have become iconic of the Dead for many.

Morning Dew – poignant lyrics and vocals, that great unison passage leading up to the guitar solo, the Phil Bombs, the worrying Bob would ruin it with his next song pick…

Sugar Magnolia – Speaking of which. Among their most played songs ever, a nice country rocker on the American Beauty album and a common concert closer. I used to love this one when I was 14.

Truckin – Another AOR staple, written by the band, first appearing on American Beauty. In concert it featured some of their best vocal improvisation, as well as being a taking-off platform for 2nd set jams.

Not Fade Away – Based on the Rolling Stones version of Buddy Holly’s classic, among their most played and best loved covers.

Turn on Your Lovelight – Another Live/Dead cut. Many thought Pigpen was the heart and soul of the Dead, and although he died in 1973, I had to include his main showpiece. It was revived in later years, but no need to consider that.

Terrapin Station – a song suite that made its debut in 1977, since a beloved live number and fairly ubiquitous in GD inconography.

The Other One – Another song suite, the middle section of which proved far more enduring. Popular as the basis of some deep and crazy jams in the early 70s, it became a well-known theme that could turn up anywhere in later years. Feel free to consider both the full suite and the much more common middle section in your voting.

Casey Jones – Closer to the outstanding Workingman’s Dead album. Maybe their most famous song, although Bob Dole was not a fan. A concert favorite early on that the band burned out on, it almost disappeared in later years, but to this day can be heard on classic rock radio.

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