“Don’t murder me …” – Dire Wolf

“In the Timbers of Fennario…” Today’s murder ballad dances merrily along borderlines with which we’ve become familiar in this blog; boundaries between celebration and fear, civilization and savagery, traditional and post-modern balladry – and of course that inscrutable passage between life and death.  “Dire Wolf” is an unabashedly happy song in … → read more

“Betty and Dupree” – A Digital Compendium, Part 1- “Dupree’s Diamond Blues”

Postcard showing Peachtree Street, Atlanta, ca. 1910  (postcard, public domain) Note: this is Part 1 of a two part series.  Read Part 2 here. Introduction – “Betty told Dupree…” What would you do for love?  Well, wait, that’s not quite it today.  It’s more like this.  How far would you … → read more

China Doll

Introduction It is, apparently, awfully hard to find a picture of a broken or cracked china doll online that doesn’t immediately bring one to the brink of depression.  The one above, though, inspires me.  I wish I could link you to more of the artist’s work. Despite the strange title … → read more

Murder at the Dead Show – Encore

Big Brother and the Holding Company and the Grateful Dead – by Irving Penn, 1967 Janis Joplin – James Gurley – Ron McKernan – Jerry Garcia (This week’s first set.)    (This week’s second set.) When I look at portraits from the Nineteenth Century, I’m always struck by the seeming juxtaposition of … → read more

Murder at the Dead Show – Second Set

Concert Poster, Oakland Coliseum – Peter Barsotti, 12/31/91 I recently wrote about “Jack Straw” as the Grateful Dead’s only true murder ballad.  That effort spurred me to begin this week with a broader look at the act of murder in the Dead’s repertoire.  We listened to rejuvenated murder and bad man ballads, … → read more

Murder at the Dead Show – First Set

“Listening for the secret, searching for the sound…” I am one of those people who early in life, somewhere around age four, started grappling with the existential ‘problem’ of death.  I don’t know why. Maybe it was because my grandmother took me several times to her husband’s new grave (he … → read more

Cut down a man in cold blood…

“None recover, they are just replaced.”  – Robert Hunter, 1995 Note: This is Part 3 of a three part series.  See also Part 1 and Part 2. Introduction At the free concert at Altamont Speedway on December 6, 1969, an eighteen year old man pulled a gun in a scuffle with a member of … → read more

There ain’t a winner in this game…

The last 10 minutes of the 1939 version of Of Mice and Men Note: this is Part 2 of a three part series.  See also Part 1 and Part 3. Introduction Bob Weir’s revelation that John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men was a partial inspiration for “Jack Straw” allows us to … → read more

Jack Straw

Note: this is Part 1 of a three part series.  See also Part 2, and Part 3. Introduction “We can share the women, we can share the wine. We can share what we got of yours, ‘cos we done shared all of mine.” So begins the Grateful Dead’s signature murder … → read more