Song of the Day: “China Cat Sunflower” – The Grateful Dead



This past August 1st would have been Jerry Garcia’s 74th birthday had he not left us almost 21 years ago in 1995. It still makes me sad that he passed away at a relatively young age, while all his bandmates survive to this day. Not that I would trade Garcia’s death for one of the others, but the Dead could have had 20 more years of productivity had Garcia been able to control his weight and drug habits. But, alas, things are pretty much set in stone the way they are. Even if we went back in time and tried to save his life, the universe would find a way to course-correct, as time really doesn’t like when people try to change it. So instead of bemoaning Garcia’s early demise, let’s think about just what a memorable artist he was and how many great tunes he left with us.

My personal favorite Garcia song is the longtime staple of their live set, “China Cat Sunflower.” To me, it embodies every single quality that made Jerry Garcia so unique. The playful guitar line, the understated and melodic vocals, and the complex poly-rhythmic interplay between the instruments make give the song a sort of “quintessential Grateful Dead” status. It is one of the more “Grateful Dead-y” of the group’s songs, and remains the example playing in my head when their name is mentioned. The Dead played this song a lot during their 30-year history, usually followed by “I Know You Rider.” There are a lot of great versions, but one of my personal favorites appears on Dick’s Picks Volume 12, which covers a 3-night stint at the Providence, Rhode Island Civic center in June of 1974. Happy birthday, Jerry. Hopefully in heaven you can eat whatever you want and do opiates without consequence.

Sponsored link (story continues below)

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *