Exclusive Features
Anniversaries, Cover Stories, Editorials,
Interviews, Lists, and Comprehensive Rankings

Grateful Dead in 10 Songs

on May 26, 2017, 12:00am
view all

Jerry’s Jauntiest

“China Cat Sunflower” at Old Renaissance Faire Grounds (August 27th, 1972)

Sandwiched between references to an iconoclastic comic strip (“Krazy Kat peeking through a lace bandanna”), Leo da Vinci (“crying Leonardo’s words”), and the Buddhist concept of supernal understanding (“copper-dome Bodhi”), “China Cat Sunflower” has Jerry Garcia laying in some of the crispest, sweetest riffs ever concocted. Paired perfectly with his lazy vocal drawl, he channels the calming sense of wellbeing one enjoys while gazing up at an unblemished blue sky or contemplating the cadence of golden straw blowing in the breeze. Anchored by a sublime, naturalistic euphoria straight out of a Wordsworth poem, it’s a hedonistic tune that’s wholly preoccupied with the naked enjoyment of taking in those warming, healing sunbeams. As the track unfolds, life’s worries fade away, gently nudged into the background by Garcia’s rollicking licks, Bob Weir’s steady rhythm guitar, and Phil Lesh’s bobbing bass. Performed at over 500 live shows alongside its companion piece, “I Know You Rider”, The Dead typically tapped “China Cat Sunflower” to kick off their second set. Here, beneath the blazing Oregon summer sun, topless longhairs sway to the beat as they bronze their shoulders and flirt with heatstroke. —Henry Hauser


view all