The Grateful Dead will always be one of the most influential bands of their era. Not only did they symbolise the Californian essence of the 1960s counterculture with their attitude towards life, but they also captured it perfectly within their music.
Their extended jams were the perfect soundtrack for audiences where most were lost in a narcotic-induced haze, and their expert blend of Americana with other genres was enough to convince anyone that the group were masters at the craft. Something that never would have happened without band leader Jerry Garcia.
Not only was Garcia the Dead’s singer and their finest resident guitar hero, but he was also their figurehead. Even those unfamiliar with the band have heard of the many crazy tales involving Garcia from the group’s peak, including the time he ate a cake dosed with 800 hits of acid. However, his musical legacy overshadows the off-stage infamy.
While Garcia was a prolific songwriter essential to the band’s rise, he was also highly self-aware. Demonstrating this humble character, he lucidly explained why the Grateful Dead could be so polarising. In fact, Garcia was so aware of the parameters of his work that he once revealed the name of the song that he really loved but “nobody else really liked”.
When speaking to Relix in 1976, Garcia named ‘Row Jimmy’ from 1973’s Wake of the Flood as the track that he “really loved”. This was to the extent that he deemed it one of his “favourites” that he’d written. However, in customary style, he counteracted this disclosure by saying that no one else in the band liked it.
Interestingly, Wake of the Flood appeared in a significant period for the Grateful Dead. It was their first without founding member Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan, who died earlier in the year. At the time, the group was comprised of Garcia, Donna Jean Godchaux, Keith Godchaux, Bill Kreutzmann and Bob Weir. ‘Row Jimmy’ was written by the frontman in tandem with lyricist Robert Hunter.
Discussing ‘Row Jimmy’ in Relix, Garcia explained: “There are some songs that I really loved. Like, I really loved ‘Row Jimmy Row.’ That was one of my favourite songs of ones that I’ve written. I loved it. Nobody else really liked it very much. We always did it. But nobody liked it very much, at least in the same way I did”.
Listen to ‘Row Jimmy’ below.