Review #215: American Beauty, Grateful Dead

Karla Clifton
3 min readDec 22, 2021

#215: American Beauty, Grateful Dead

If you’ve ever been friends with “music people,” you’ll know that it’s a cardinal sin to buy the merch of a band that you don’t listen to. This is doubly true for bands with a really huge counterculture impact, like the Ramones and Nirvana and, yes, the Grateful Dead.

Gather round and hear my tale.

When I was a freshman in college, I was visiting a head shop in Breckenridge and found the most beautiful ten-foot-tall tapestry I’d ever seen. It was covered in skulls and roses (my two favorite things!) and, guess what, just happened to be a Grateful Dead pattern.

But I wasn’t a Grateful Dead fan. And since I identified as a “music person” and associated with “music people,” I decided to purchase it and then become a Dead fan.

And then I didn’t. I did learn a lot about Jerry Garcia and his four-fingered hand. I even bought a special issue of Rolling Stone magazine to learn about Deadheads and how absolutely bonkers they were.

The moral of this story? “Music people” are insufferable, and I am NOT one, and you should buy whatever the hell you want. The Grateful Dead Tapestry is currently hanging up over my guitar rack, and it looks very, very cool.


“Box of Rain” — When I tried to become a Grateful Dead fan, I basically force-fed myself this album dozens of times, but I didn’t really listen to any of the words. This time, some of them just really struck me. For instance, this one has a really abstract title, and some really introspective lyrics. For this is all a dream we dreamed/One afternoon long ago.

“Friend of the Devil” — Even when I wasn’t really sure who the Grateful Dead were, I always thought this was one of the most beautiful songs ever. I just love the way Jerry Garcia sounds. when he says that A friend of the devil is a friend of mine. He sounds like a traveler who’s telling you a campfire secret.

“Sugar Magnolia” — Hey, Bob Weir has a really cool voice!

“Operator” — This is keyboardist Pigpen’s only singer-songwriter song with the Dead, and it’s pretty fun. Pigpen died just a few years later, at age 27, making him a bona fide 27 Club member.

“Candyman” — I love this floaty guitar solo — way ahead of its time.

“Ripple” — Another one with really gorgeous, poetic, make-you-think lyrics. Ripple in still water/When there is no pebble tossed/Nor wind to blow.

“Brokedown Palace” — The Grateful Dead are like if Bob Dylan could sing.

“Til the Morning Comes” — Ooh, what a delightful guitar lick at the beginning.

“Truckin’” — Such a cool take on a twelve-bar blues. What a long strange trip it’s been, indeed.


“Attics of my Life” — Literally sounds like a very slow hymn.


This album should be higher. The Grateful Dead were not only some of the greatest collaborative songwriters in the US, they were a cultural phenomenon.

And no, I’m not just saying that because of the tapestry.

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