Nov 112022
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

Whatever you think or don’t think of the Grateful Dead, we have to credit the songwriting team of Jerry Garcia and lyricist Robert Hunter for turning out some indelible classics. As long as there are acoustic guitars to strum and humans to sing, “Ripple” will ring out, and “Friend of the Devil” too. These songs have osmosed into the folk tradition that gave rise to them.

I’m not going to make the same claim of timelessness for “Bird Song,” Garcia and Hunter’s elegy to their friend Janis Joplin. Its greatness is of a different kind. But as far as elegies go, it has very few peers and is worth attention.
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Aug 012020
 

Let there be songs to fill the air: It’s the birthday of Jerome John “Jerry” Garcia. The Grateful Dead leader would be celebrating his 78th trip around the sun today. Although a quarter of a century has passed since Garcia passed away (on August 8th), there’s no need to revive his work: his music did not fade away in the first place. In fact, Garcia’s songs and his approach to improvisation seem as relevant and contemporary as ever.

A small number of his songs (co-writes with lyricist Robert Hunter) are fixtures in the American songbook, just as surely as those of Stephen Foster, Woody Guthrie, and Hank Williams. That alone is a pretty big deal. But in terms of covers, you’d be hard pressed to name any musician who gave more life to other people’s music than Jerry Garcia. He attracted millions of listeners with his own original songs and his trippy way with a guitar solo, but Garcia then guided that listenership toward a much wider world of music beyond the songs of his own.
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May 062020
 
quarantine covers
Alt-J, Grouplove, more – Shelter from the Storm (Bob Dylan cover)

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