"If you tell the Truth, you don't have to remember anything"
-Mark Twain
"You realize, of course, that everything I say is horseshit." -Kurt Vonnegut

Monday, September 3, 2012

MAKE A WISH

In 1988, the Grateful Dead was approached by the Make-A-Wish Foundation with an unique request. A terminally ill young fan of the band, wanted to see the band preform his favorite song, "Ripple." The band had given up playing the song electrically because it lost its quaintness when it was preformed on an electric. Unlike some of its fellow acoustic masterpieces on "Workingman's" and "American Beauty," the song sounded choppy plugged in.
In 1971, at the second to last gig in the Fillmore East, (the Dead's last show there) they played "Ripple" electrically for the last time. They did not give up on the song though. The Dead played "Ripple" at every acoustic gig they did after that. Garcia also incorporated the song into his acoustic side projects like JGAB and Garcia & Grisman.
The band was told which show that the young man was going to see them at, which was the Capitol Center in Landover, Maryland on 9/3/88.
The young man must have been full of excitement walking into the venue. He was the first fan the band was willing to take a request from, not including piers like Kesey or Bill Graham. But when and how would they fulfill his request.
The band opens with a jovial "Let the Good Times Roll" and follows that with a dark "Stranger." Jerry and Brent pick up a riff that they play off of throughout the jam until busting into the closing jam and into "Franklin's." The blues roar of "Rooster" is followed by a quite jam, which I'm sure peaked the ears of the sick young man, as Jerry sings "Peggy-O." The band takes a long pause, which probably got the MAW kid very tense, as the go into "My Uncle" and "Big River." Then launch into a beautiful dark "Bird Song" to end the set.
The "American Beauty" companion, "Box," opens up the second set. A song that Phil was definitely singing to the friends and family members that were at the show with the MAW boy. Jerry singing "Foolish Heart" is a little bit of a tongue and cheek moment. Is it a warning that they could disappoint the kid later on? "Never give your love my friend, unto a Foolish Heart" really? Jerry then redeems the kids spirit with, "sometimes the songs that you sing are just songs of your own."
Durning "Drums" and "Space" the kid had to be thinking, will they do it out of space or as an encore? It could have been cool to hear it out of "Space" like "Wheel" or "I will take you Home." But the rockers "GDTRFB" and "Miracle," Drop the band into "Morning Dew." Like Jerry is singing every song this set directly to the kid as he rips into the line, "I though I heard a young man moan today, though I heard a young man moan this morning, I can't walk you out in the morning dew today."
The first time I heard this story, I was told that when the band came out and started "Saturday Night," that the kid started cursing about how he should have known better and left the venue before the last "Ripple" in Grateful Dead history. There is an awkward crowd reaction to the "OMSN." But I hope the kid stayed and sang every word to that "Ripple."

I: LTGTR, Stranger, Franklin's, Rooster, Peggy-O, My Uncle, Big River, Bird Song
II: Box, Victim, Foolish Heart, Woman, Eyes, Drums, Space, GDTRFB, Miracle, Dew E: Saturday Night, Ripple

Next blog coming tomorrow.
This is also the second anniversary of the loss of my dog Althea. It was the Sunday morning of Labor Day and when the the phone rang at 5 AM, I knew something was wrong. It was a horrible day, that I'm glad I'll never have to relive. 
I must have listened to about 12 different versions of "Althea" that day. Although the song is a playful court of a young lady, there are lyric is the song that appeased my mind set. "I told Althea I was feeling lost, Lacking in some direction." "There are things you can replace and others you cannot." Were lines that jumped from Jerry's voice and stung my broken heart.
Maybe it was the suddenness of the lost even though she went peacefully in her sleep. Sometimes when I would watch her sleep she would move her feet and would bark through her closed mouth like she was chasing a bunny in big grassy field. Hope she got that bunny that night.

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