Looking Ahead To Dead & Company In 2021: Ten Hopeful Breakouts

Since their formation in 2015, Dead & Company has not been shy about plumbing the depths of the Grateful Dead’s legendary songbook. The latest “official” Grateful Dead spin-off band – featuring original members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart & Bill Kreutzmann and augmented by John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge & Jeff Chimenti – has performed nearly 130 different songs, including dozens of classics penned by the late Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter. In addition, the band has incorporated material that the Grateful Dead never played live, with gems such as: A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall (Bob Dylan), Shakey Ground (The Temptations), Milestones (Miles Davis) and Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes (Paul Simon). While the group has done a fine job of showcasing songs that represents all eras of the Grateful Dead, there is still a wealth of material that has so far been left on the cutting room floor.

Even though this summer’s tour has been canceled due to concerns surrounding the global Coronavirus pandemic, Deadheads still love to speculate about what songs they want to hear, so join us as Glide takes a look at 10 Grateful Dead songs that Dead & Company have yet to perform live, but would make welcome additions to their already vast repertoire when the band (hopefully) returns to the road in 2021. 


Unbroken Chain:  When Dead & Company officially came together in 2015, the one notable omission from the lineup was Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh. Citing an understandable desire to remain closer to home and off the road after decades of touring, the newly formed group ultimately tabbed ex-Allman Brothers Band bassist Oteil Burbridge to take his place (Mike Gordon of Phish was also considered but declined due to his already busy touring schedule). However, Phil’s absence has not stopped Dead & Co. from performing his material, as the Lesh/Hunter masterpiece “Box Of Rain” has been played a handful of times, with Mayer handling lead vocals. Containing a jazzy interlude that would allow the band’s instrumentalists to stretch their legs, particularly Jeff Chimenti, “Unbroken Chain” could quickly become a formidable addition to Dead & Company’s catalog.  

Cosmic Charlie: This psychedelic Garcia/Hunter number was a fan-favorite and, despite being shelved by the Dead after 1976, would fit in nicely to a Dead & Company first or second set. When discussing the song in 1987, Garcia said “I’ve always liked ‘Cosmic Charlie,’ but it’s just really a little too difficult. If I could figure out a way to either just sing or just play – but playing it and singing it is a bitch.”  Despite Jerry’s reservations about performing it live, the song has been revived by other post-Garcia bands – Furthur and Phil & Friends – lending credence to the possibility that it’s brought back one more time by Dead & Co. 

Just A Little Light: Brent Mydland, the talented and soulful keyboardist who tragically died of a drug overdose in 1990, composed this song with enigmatic lyricist John Barlow.  Recorded on the Dead’s final studio album Built to Last, this lilting track was one of four that Brent contributed to the record, more than either of the two previous studio albums combined. While Dead & Company have (blasphemously) yet to perform any Brent tunes so far, they would do well to resurrect this gem. Keyboardist Jeff Chimenti’s gruff vocals are perfectly suited for Mydland’s trademark whiskey-soaked sound and it would give him a rare opportunity to shine as the lead vocalist. Not to mention the fact that Jeff is still playing Brent’s Hammond B-3 organ with Dead & Co. and they even share the same birthday (October 21st). 


Born Cross-Eyed: Recorded on the 1968 album Anthem of the Sun, this frenetic rocker was a semi-regular inclusion in some very early Grateful Dead setlists and would fit like a glove into any Dead & Company second set. Autobiographical in nature – Weir himself was, in fact, born cross-eyed and dyslexic – the song’s chaotic pace and lyrics are well suited for it’s subject matter.

So Many Roads: This soulful ballad, introduced in 1992, was written nearly a decade after Robert Hunter inadvertently recorded Garcia sitting at a piano playing some structured chord changes. As Hunter recalled in his book A Box of Rain: “The result was one of the better received new GD songs and one that almost got away. Dozens of others did, but you can’t go following people around with tape recorders – you get a reputation that way.” Already performed by Oteil Burbridge’s solo project Oteil & Friends, this song would give the bassist an opportunity to wow stadiums and arenas with his remarkably warm and soothing vocals. 


Doin’ That Rag: With less than forty known Grateful Dead performances – all taking place between January and September 1969 – this Garcia/Lesh/Hunter classic is among the most obscure yet cherished gems in their repertoire. Featuring some of Hunter’s quirkier lines – “Sitting in Mangrove Valley chasing lightbeams / Everything wanders from baby to Z” – along with relatively unconventional chord and tempo changes, this challenging song would make for a welcome surprise for Deadheads of all ages.


Dupree’s Diamond Blues: “Dupree’s” is one of many early Grateful Dead songs that has aged well over the band’s 30-year career, despite it being a sporadically performed surprise after 1977. It’s also a fine example of Robert Hunter’s ability to masterfully reinterpret some of folk music’s most venerable songs. Based on an actual 1921 jewelry store robbery and double-murder committed by Frank DuPre, there have been dozens of folk songs penned about the infamous heist over the past century. Interestingly, it was perhaps the only song Robert Hunter ever composed while drunk. As Hunter explained to Relix in 1981: “I wrote it when I was good and drunk one night. My best writing comes when I am perfectly straight. No beer even…for at least three or four days. I do exercises…my head is clear…I can turn it out.” Mayer’s bluesy vocal style would make this a satisfying addition to any Dead & Co. opening stanza.


Foolish Heart: With poignant lyrics and brilliant guitar & piano melodies chasing each other throughout, this late-era Garcia/Hunter song would make for an interesting second set jam vehicle for Dead & Co. It certainly seems like most band members would be on board to revive this track. In a 1991 interview with Blair Jackson, drummer Bill Kreutzmann described the group’s elation for the song when Garcia first introduced it: “When Jerry laid that song on us, everyone liked it so much they played everything they knew all at the same time. It was a mish-mash, but we were excited. It was like, ‘Settle down, cowboys! Rein ’em in a little!'”


Might As Well: The Grateful Dead often used this rollicking rocker to open or close their first sets with a bang and it would be a fine choice to fill the same role for Dead & Co. Written about the infamous train-bound 1970 trans-continental whistle-stop tour of Canada, where the Grateful Dead were joined by The Band, Janis Joplin and the New Riders of the Purple Sage, among others, the song’s upbeat tempo would offer a nice alternative to some of Dead & Co.’s slower material.


Weather Report Suite: While Dead & Company have made Weather Report Suite: Part 2 – a.k.a. “Let it Grow” – a regular inclusion in their setlists, they have yet to perform the first two parts of the triptych: “Prelude” and “Part 1.”  Somewhat coincidentally, the pair’s history with the Grateful Dead was not much more fortuitous, as both songs were shelved in 1974 after only being debuted less than two years prior. However, like many other classics the Grateful Dead retired prematurely, “Part 1” has been a regular inclusion in many of Weir’s post-Garcia ensembles.

Related Content

15 Responses

  1. Monkey and the Engineer, ANY John Mayer solo stuff!! No such thing, Daughters, Your Body is a Wonderland, Waiting on the world to change into a medley of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s and Jimmy Vaughan’s “Tick Tock People, would be sooooooooooo sweet.
    We usta scream Let Phil Sing, well let John Mayer play his solo shit!!. Lol

  2. How about some new blues covers for Mayer to sink his teeth into?

    Also some of the Weir tunes that got played by The Other Ones and Furthur:

    Two Djinn, Ashes & Glass, etc.

    I guess any new material is a pipe dream, huh?

  3. There is a wonderful song that got only a single airing — spring tour 1986 — a Lesh and Mydland partnership with lyrics by Lesh’s Unbroken Chain/Pride of Cucamonga/New Potato Caboose collaborator Bobby Petersen — called Revolutionary Hamstrung Blues. Tailor-made for Mayer’s voice. Several folks have noted a similarity to Just a Little Light. I’d LOVE to hear D&C bust this obscure gem out — for that matter, why not New Potato? The rendering at FTW was gorgeous!

    I’ll also include a beg for Around and Around, Attics of My Life, It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue, Only the Strange (Mickey song — actually goes all the way back to 1982 and there is a demo of the band doing it with Jerry out there somewhere) Brother Esau, and how about FINALLY serving up one or more slices of Terrapin Part 2? “Leaving Terrapin” would be an absolute swoon coming out of Space. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8t_i98Jq3ts)

    Maybe even a new cover or two: Bob singing September Gurls by Big Star? Could Bob do justice to Visions of Johanna? Phil Ochs’ “Miranda” with John singing?

  4. How about a “Hey Pocky Way” for a opener or a sweet “Dark Hollow” mid first set….. Things that make ya go HMMMMMMMMMMM !!! 🙂

Leave a Reply

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

Recent Posts

New to Glide

Keep up-to-date with Glide