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A top 10 list of the Dead’s best songs
Petal Barrett
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The Grateful Dead released their first song in the mid sixties, and continued with regular releases until Jerry Garcia, the lead singer, died in 1995. 


On May 6, 2022 I published a piece on my favorite Grateful Dead songs. Almost one year later- May 17, 2023- I released a revised list. This year, I’ve decided to do the same. 

The song centers around all of the mistakes the narrator has made, while also emphasizing the lack of regret they feel

Neither list is bad, but I do feel that a lot of amazing songs got skipped over in the process of writing the first two articles. 


Here is my revised list of my top ten favorite Grateful Dead songs as of April 2024:


  1. “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo”

This song is insanely catchy. I can listen to it once and have it stuck in my head for the next week. 

With most songs, this would be annoying but the lyrics here are just so fun. They also have a meaning to them, which I appreciate. One of my favorite parts of this song is the line “What’s the point in calling shots? This cue ain’t in a straight line/Cue ball’s made of styrofoam, no one’s got the time.”


  1. “Tennessee Jed”

Are you from Tennessee? Because you’re the only 10 I see! Is only the second best thing when it comes to media references to the state, Tennessee. This song is composed of various show and music references that make picking out the easter eggs a great way to spend time. The opening line is a throwback to a song from the 1940s, and verse two has a line created for a 40s show called Tennessee Jed. These are not the only points in the song that can connect to old media, but these references are not the only interesting part of the song. The Dead broke traditional song structure of verse chorus verse etc. “Tennessee Jed” goes verse, verse, chorus with a total of six verses, each one ending with the line “head back to Tennessee Jed”.


  1. “New, New Minglewood Blues”


This song is shorter than most Dead songs, but it’s still an adventure to listen to. The song centers around all of the mistakes the narrator has made, while also emphasizing the lack of regret they feel. There are lines about being called a sinner, as well as crazy, and the self awareness to know that although this might be true, the preacher’s “little girl call[s] [him] a saint”. On the surface, it doesn’t sound super serious, but the lyrics are layered with more intense topics.


  1. “Brown Eyed Woman” 


I’m a sucker for word choice. I can listen to a song that sounds like absolute trash as long as the lyrics are interesting or engaging in some way. This song manages to sound amazing not only in vocals and instrumental, but the lyrics are also attention grabbing. 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 the song. That is happening no longer.  “Brown Eyed Woman” is a top piece for me.


  1. “Ramble on Rose” 


The Grateful Dead had an amazing rhythm with this song. Throughout the verses, Garcia repeats lines with just a slight twist, which adds an extra rhythm to the song. On top of that, Garcia has amazing guitar parts in this song that work to enhance the beauty of the overall piece. The final part of “Ramble on Rose” that is so amazing is the harmonies.


  1. “St. Stephen” 


The opening line of “St. Stephen” is “Saint Stephen with a rose” and anyone who knows about the Dead knows the repeating theme of red roses throughout their albums. Whether it be one of their most popular albums, Bones and Roses or number 6 on my list, the Dead brings roses up regularly. “St. Stephen” as a whole, centers around Saint Stephen, a historical saint who was stoned to death. Hunter’s lyrics blend Saint Stephen with Stephen Gaskin who was a leader in the counterculture hippie movements of the 60’s and 70’s.  The Dead also reference their anger towards how the U.S. government handled the Vietnam War with lines like “Did it matter? Does it now? Stephen would answer if he only knew how”.


  1. “China Cat Sunflower”


The Grateful Dead lean heavily into their psychedelic undertones with “China Cat Sunflower”. There are lines about multiple well known cultural ideas, such as the Chinese waving cat that the song was named after. Robert Hunter, who wrote lyrics for this piece, said this song was inspired when “he was tripping in Mexico with a cat sitting on his stomach.” He then wrote lyrics about this specific trip, which give the song a unique feel.


  1. “Alabama Getaway”


Catchy lyrics about a criminal with multiple amazing guitar solos. What more could someone want out of a song? This piece, and the album it’s off of as a whole, has an interesting message. Go to Heaven was the final album the Dead released under the label they had been working with. It’s their send-off release, and the opening track is one about running away. That doesn’t seem to be a stellar review of their old label… 


  1. “Eyes of the World”


This song is so good. I have a 50th anniversary limited picture edition of Wake of the Flood which is the album “Eyes of the World” is on. The record is one of my most prized possessions, and part of that is because of this song. It focuses on the idea that we are who we are without needing to change. We can see the world and experience wonderful things by simply existing and enjoying the little things in day-to-day life. 


  1. “Scarlet Begonias”

I listen to “Scarlet Begonias” more than any other song the Grateful Dead have released. As I mentioned earlier, I love listening to lyrics in music; this song has some amazing lyrics. The rhythmic feel of the words, as well as the 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, because that specific line stands out 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 I probably have before.


The Grateful Dead have been a staple in my life for years, and I am sure that will not change anytime soon. I listen to their music every time I go skiing, or take a long hike. The Dead are an escape and they feel almost like a time machine for me. I always come back to them, and I hope that everyone gives them a solid college try.

About the Contributors
Harper Jontow
Harper Jontow, Editor
I guess I’m an editor. Good luck y'all
Petal Barrett
Petal Barrett, Reporter
I'm so cool