Grateful Dead Songs Ranked

The Grateful Dead was an American rock band formed in 1965 in Palo Alto, California. The band is known for its eclectic style, which fused elements of rock, folk, country, jazz, bluegrass, blues, gospel, and psychedelic rock; for live performances of lengthy instrumental jams; and for its devoted fan base, known as “Deadheads.” “Their music,” writes Lenny Kaye, “touches on ground that most other groups don’t even know exists.” These various influences were distilled into a diverse and psychedelic whole that made the Grateful Dead “the pioneering Godfathers of the jam band world”. The band was ranked 57th by Rolling Stone magazine in its The Greatest Artists of All Time issue. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 and a recording of their May 8, 1977 performance at Cornell University’s Barton Hall was added to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2012. The Grateful Dead has sold more than 35 million albums worldwide. The Grateful Dead was founded in the San Francisco Bay Area amid the rise of the counterculture of the 1960s. The founding members were Jerry Garcia (lead guitar, vocals), Bob Weir (rhythm guitar, vocals), Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (keyboards, harmonica, vocals), Phil Lesh (bass, vocals), and Bill Kreutzmann (drums). Members of the Grateful Dead had played together in various San Francisco bands, including Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions and the Warlocks. Lesh was the last member to join the Warlocks before they became the Grateful Dead; he replaced Dana Morgan Jr., who had played bass for a few gigs. Drummer Mickey Hart and nonperforming lyricist Robert Hunter joined in 1967. With the exception of McKernan, who died in 1973, and Hart, who took time off from 1971 to 1974, the core of the band stayed together for its entire 30-year history. The other official members of the band are Tom Constanten (keyboards; 1968–1970), John Perry Barlow (nonperforming lyricist; 1971–1995) Keith Godchaux (keyboards; 1971–1979), Donna Godchaux (vocals; 1972–1979), Brent Mydland (keyboards, vocals; 1979–1990), and Vince Welnick (keyboards, vocals; 1990–1995). Bruce Hornsby (accordion, piano, vocals) was a touring member from 1990 to 1992, as well as a guest with the band on occasion before and after the tours. Here are all Grateful Dead songs ranked.

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20. Althea (Go to Heaven, 1980)

“Very under-rated song that should be in their top 5. Give it a 15 second sample and grunted you’ll want to buy this song. The guitar riff is so silky smooth”

19. Dark Star (Live/Dead, 1969)

“This is the Dead’s definitive track, they seem to be under rated by this site, and over rated by the rest of society. of course my rating of this comes from the magnum opus of Jam Band, and Fusion rock “Dark Star” it is the mammoth beast that lights the night sky, and surely one of the tracks that defines the 1960’s experience.”

18. Morning Dew (The Grateful Dead, 1967)

“I think he sings about how life and death are the same thing. He is on one side, and she is on the other. They both exist, but in two separate realms, where they can’t intersect. She can’t see what he sees, particularly, the people as a result of who, she died. Occasionally, he hears voices coming from the other realm, and, therefore, the song ends as – “Guess, it doesn’t matter anyway”, meaning that it doesn’t really matter if you’re dead or alive. It’s the same thing.”

17. Shakedown Street (Shakedown Street, 1978)

“I’ve heard it said many times that the Dead were not a great studio band. Even Dead members lament their studio recordings. I beg to differ! This is an exceptional collection of Dead recordings!”

See more: Grateful Dead Albums Ranked

16. Standing On the Moon (Built to Last, 1989)

“To me, it’s about wanting to get away from all the crap in the world (war, children starving, etc) and dreaming about standing on the moon and being happy to be away from all the garbage. Then the singer realizes that the person he loves is still on earth, and despite all the ugliness of the world, he wants to be back there (despite the lovely view of heaven) because that is where the person he loves is. it’s sort of a hidden love song. Just another example of why the man is one of the best at what he does, Robert Hunter only gets better with age … like a fine wine.”

15. U.S. Blues (From the Mars Hotel, 1974)

“I Love this song! It is sure to get your blood flowing and get you moving. Great song to walk to. The Grateful Dead always aimed to please it’s constituency the Counter Culture. Along the veins of The Doors L’America and Ship Of Fools. The logical ends of the Technological Revolution.”

14. Sugar Magnolia (American Beauty, 1970)

“I believe this song is about a girl like a lot of you say, but more precisely, it’s about a groupie, the Dead who were always traveling had a loyal group of fans who would truck with them everywhere they went, among them was their Sugar Magnolia, who became almost part of the band and would share all of her time with them, doing all you can read about in the lyrics and all more, we’ll never know who the girl really was this was the greatest part of being in a band, the women, along with of course the music and the drugs for many.”

13. Playing In the Band (Grateful Dead, 1970)

“Grateful Dead weren’t always the laid back, country influenced band everyone knows today. In fact they were more on the blues spectrum and it shows pretty heavily hear that they wanted to be a blues rock group, yet many people aren’t familiar with this side of the dead as they were fairly unpopular outside of the west coast scene”

12. Uncle John’s Band (Grateful Dead, 1970)

“This really is beautiful. They were great at Psychedelic rock, they were great at Country rock, they were great at rock rock. My Parents hated this track when I played this song for them, My Uncle loved it. My Uncle is wrong in many area’s, but this time Parents just don’t understand. Classic”

11. Eyes of the World (Wake of the Flood, 1973)

“This is one of the Dead’s happiest songs and an eternal live staple. It gets a mellow vocal rendition here, but Jerry’s soloing is as delightful as any other version. It stays in that happy mood without going into the moody jams some long live versions do (which IMO never fit the song well). Everything’s there but it’s still a surprise hearing it end after only five minutes.”

10. Scarlet Begonias (From the Mars Hotel, 1974)

“This is one the best studio album by the Grateful Dead to feature their “classic” Workingman’s Dead/American Beauty sound; after this, they started to go fusion-y. Side B is actually my all-time favorite Grateful Dead LP side, and “Scarlet Begonias” includes what may be my all-time favorite Grateful Dead couplet”

9. Terrapin Station (Terrapin Station, 1977)

“A powerful masterpiece that in its best versions leaves goosebumps. One of the greatest songs by one of the greatest bands ever. This song can transcend time and at times be a symbolic image of the mightiest images possibly portrayed by this genius of a band.”

8. Box of Rain (American Beauty, 1970)

“One of the most beautiful tunes ever written, with sounds that send chills down your spine just thinking about them. One of a kind and powerful”

7. China Cat Sunflower (Aoxomoxoa, 1969)

“Best version of China Cat that I know of. The boys were playing great in ’72 and this China Cat is no exception. Crisp, clear and incredibly well-played. Get it and blast it!”

See more: Europe ’72 (Grateful Dead Album) Live

6. Touch of Grey (In the Dark, 1987)

“It came into concerts around ’82, and didn’t make it to a record til ’89, I think. Perfect song for a perfect time in the band’s long strange trip This song had a powerful meaning to it”

5. Ripple (American Beauty, 1970)

“Ripple is good old time rock N Roll music, laid back where as Trucking is more hard paced. Ripple may actually be better the track. Both the tracks are editied a ton from there original length but I usually own rate the album length any way.”

4. Truckin’ (American Beauty, 1970)

“It is a good folly rock song. The singing is nice, and has a pretty good and enjoyable melody. The instrumentation is nicely done as well, it has some good piano and guitar playing that give some aid to the good singing. Overall nice enjoyable song.”

3. Casey Jones (Workingman’s Dead, 1970)

“Sniff…this is the first Grateful Dead song I remember hearing and it remains their biggest contribution to the classic rock radio format. After the opening nasal inhalation, the first lyrics are the memorable ‘Drivin that train, high on cocaine, Casey Jones you better watch your speed.'”

2. Friend of the Devil (American Beauty, 1970)

“This is one of the first songs I set my sights on when I began guitar lessons. I’ll never get the Garcia polish but it’s a great song and It was a pleasure to get a copy that I could play on my iPod. This is classic Dead, the kind we used to drive 500-600 miles overnight to listen too. Even without the dope and partying. This is an excellent tune that has worn well, at least in the opinion of this aging boomer and former boyfriend of a true dead head.”

1. St. Stephen (Aoxomoxoa, 1969)

“This is one of my favorite songs by the Dead (though there are so many amazing ones.) If you’re not familiar with the track, but you want to get into the Dead, this is a good one to download for starters. I think the best parts of the song are the lyrics, and how the track itself changes…it really jams, and then there’s a great break where they really slow it down, and you can hear individual notes played on the xylophone. It’s perfectly remastered here, great sound, a great studio version (though I wish they jammed a bit longer on it, which you would get from a live version.) Classic, brilliant Dead.”