Friday, November 27, 2015

Grateful Dead: Truckin'

Continuing with our Holiday Road Trip theme...

"Truckin'" is a song by the Grateful Dead, which first appeared on their 1970 album American Beauty. It was recognized by the United States Library of Congress in 1997 as a national treasure.

Written by band members Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, and lyricist Robert Hunter, "Truckin'" molds classic Grateful Dead rhythms and instrumentation with lyrics that use the band's misfortunes on the road as a metaphor for getting through the constant changes in life. Its climactic refrain, "What a long, strange trip it's been," has achieved widespread cultural use in the years since the song's release.

"Truckin'" is associated with the blues and other early 20th century forms of folk music.

"Truckin'" was considered a "catchy shuffle" by the band members. Garcia himself commented that "the early stuff we wrote that we tried to set to music was stiff because it wasn't really meant to be sung ... the result of [lyricist Robert Hunter getting into our touring world], the better he could write ... and the better we could create music around it." The communal, shared-group-experience feel of the song is brought home by the participation of all four of the group's chief songwriters (Garcia, Weir, Lesh, and Hunter), since, in Phil Lesh's words, "we took our experiences on the road and made it poetry," lyrically and musically. He goes on to say that "the last chorus defines the band itself."

The song was taken from the American Beauty album and edited down in length from five to three minutes for release as a single. In addition to being shorter, the single version had some audible differences compared to the album version: it featured sections of lead guitar in places where it's faded down on the album version, and has a strongly processed verse vocal, different vocal track for the "Sometimes the lights..." portion, and is missing the album version's organ part.

The single reached number 64 on January 27, 1971 on the U.S. Pop Singles chart and stayed on the chart for eight weeks. "Truckin'" was the highest-charting pop single the group would have until the surprise top-ten performance of "Touch of Grey" sixteen years later. Moreover, the album track was heavily played on progressive rock and album oriented rock radio stations and accordingly helped popularize the group among general rock audiences.

The song was influenced by a dance from the twenties called "jiggeln'". It was more influenced by underground comix artist R. Crumb's drawing "Keep on Truckin'" that appeared in Zap Comix #1, released in San Francisco in 1968.

What does tomorrow bring?

Tune in to find out! 

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required