My new and improved Top Ten list



Skull and Roses T-shirt

On May 6, 2022 I published a piece on my favorite Grateful Dead songs. 

Looking back on that story, I have decided I am an idiot, and that I was very wrong. 

That is not to say that any of the songs on that list were bad, because they weren’t. It’s just that there are so many other songs that should be included above the ones that I originally published. This is a revised and more accurate version of my Top 10 Grateful Dead songs.

10. “Catfish John”

My brother has given me no choice but to like this song. He sings it CONSTANTLY (between bouts of opera). It’s also just a really fun song with interesting melodies and fun, slightly rebellious/ adventurous lyrics. Most of the recordings for this song are just Jerry Garcia; however, there is a version with the full band so I think I’m allowed to include it here. I also just love this song and feel it deserves more recognition.

9. “Shakedown Street”

The instrumental opening in this song is one of my favorite things ever. Lyrically, this is a very repetitive song, but it fits the name “Shakedown Street” very well. It makes me want to groove… (I hate that I said that too, but I’m not taking it back).

8. “Sugaree”

This song was on the list last year, and it remains here for a lot of the same reasons I picked it then. I had it in eighth place then, too, because of its catchy lyrics and nostalgic value for me personally. I said then that I enjoy dancing to it – that remains true today.

7. “Ship of Fools”

Garcia’s voice is so soulful in this song that it gives me chills. A large number of Dead songs are, in some way, a social commentary. “Ship of Fools” fits into that category in a way that still holds value today (almost 50 years later). The lyrics of this song talk about working for nothing and about the jobs of a fool. Garcia won’t ever work in a place he doesn’t enjoy, but he would do whatever it took to learn how to ruin the system…or to “sink your ship of fools.” 

6. “Deep Elem Blues”

“Your daddy’s got them deep elem blues.” What more is there to say? “Deep Elem” changes a person and there’s no coming back from that change. This song also changes a person – it changed me. I don’t know how, I just wanted to say that. I really like this song though, all jokes aside.

5. “Mr. Charlie”

There’s a lot of debate as to what originally inspired this song. Some Dead fans argue it was about drug abuse (specifically heroin). Others believe it is much more literal and is simply about train foremen shooting anyone on their trains without permission. Either way, it is a great song that has a fun rhythm and an engaging beat. No matter how the lyrics were intended, they are very catchy and it’s easy to get this song stuck in your head.

4. “Ripple”

This song was number one on my list last year. I still greatly love it, and the lyrics are still highly impactful to me; however, I do not think it deserves the number one spot in my Top 10 anymore. The hopeful (yet uncertain) lyrics demonstrate an emotional and new take on life. This song is amazing for a quiet night while contemplating the great unknowns in life. 

3. “Brown-Eyed Women”

I’m a sucker for word choice. I can listen to a song that sounds like absolute trash as long as the lyrics are fun or engaging in some way. This song obviously sounds amazing in both vocals and instrumental, but the lyrics are also extremely engaging. The amount of times in my life I find myself humming “brown-eyed women and red grenadine, the bottle was dusty but the liquor was clean” to myself is slightly absurd. This song has always been one of those tunes that is in my head, but I feel I tend to overlook it a lot despite my deep love for it. That is happening no longer. This is easily a top 3 piece for me.

2. “Box of Rain”

I think that this might be the best studio recording that the Grateful Dead ever did. I went back and forth about whether this song should be my Number One or not, and I did eventually land on number two after some outside advice (thank you, Ms. Bathje). The lyrics and flow of this song are incredible and I feel that they are thought provoking in many ways. The verse about dreams is something that has stuck with me for a long time, and I think this song is truly a Grateful Dead greatest hit.

1. “Scarlet Begonias”

This is the song I listen to more than any other Dead song. As I mentioned earlier, I love listening to lyrics in music; this song has some amazing lyrics. The feel of the words, as well as the slight word-play throughout the song, brings me so much joy. There are two lines in this song that stand out to me the most: “Well I ain’t always right, but I’ve never been wrong” which I think may be my life motto, because I am actually never wrong… I just am rarely right. The other lyric is “ the sky was yellow, and the Sun was blue.” This entire verse is so fun, and I will admit to singing it over and over without shame, but that specific line is so fun to me. I love the complete inversion of the way we know things to be in the world. I could rant about the choices made in this song for hours, and for that reason it was my top choice for this list. 

I don’t think the Grateful Dead have a single song that I don’t enjoy. Regardless these 10 are the ones that mean the most to me and I don’t think they can be beat by any other Dead songs.