For all well-known a band as the Grateful Dead is, they only had one top 10 hit, and only two top 40 hits over their lengthy career. The first of their top 40 hits (which peaked at #37) was called Truckin’, and their second and far bigger hit, which reached #9 on the Billboard Hot 100, was called “A Touch Of Grey.” The song itself is nonsensical and a bit silly, which is probably why I liked it when I first heard it on the radio as a kid, and why the song even today with its macabre music video of skeletons and its rather non sequitor lyrics, is something I still view as fun and enjoyable to listen to on occasion . Although I am not generally a fan of jam bands, as they meander far too much for my tastes, this particular song was a worthy hit, even if it was a bit out of left-field.
A short time ago I write a blog entry about the feeling of driving around nearly empty streets under a lead gray sky . While I have not yet felt inspired to write a poem on Portland’s 99 shades of gray, which I took from a song lyric played on one of the radio stations I listen to called “99 shades of crazy,” which seemed like a good number to avoid the obvious bad contemporary literary reference, I find it at least amusing that right now there is nary a trace of gray in the sky at all. In fact, although this morning was pleasantly cool, the last few days have been hot and dry and it looks to remain that way for at least a few more days. Naturally, after spending months beneath an almost unceasingly overcast sky, a few hot and dry days and people are already complaining about the weather. It is almost as if the people of the Portland area need a touch of gray to feel at home. In that sense, they are not too unlike Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, I suppose.
As it happens, the band Counting Crows , which once covered the Grateful Dead song “A Friend Of The Devil Is A Friend Of Mine” on their greatest hits album, also wrote a popular song that was an ode to gray. It ended up being their first hit, called “Mr. Jones” where Adam Duritz sings, (“Gray is my favorite color / I felt so symbolic yesterday”) and talks about how he’d guy a gray guitar and play it. Likewise, Dave Matthews Band, a jam band often compared to the Grateful Dead (these jam bands are almost as interconnected as yacht rock bands ) had a minor hit song with “Grey Street,” which was about a depressed woman and her attempts to find happiness despite her isolation and powerlessness. For whatever reason, there seems to be a lot of gray in life. It is a strange irony that while many seek safety in the gray between black and white when it comes to wrestling with good and evil, they are less inclined to enjoy the conflicted emotions and experiences that result from such a life. Yet, we ultimately reap what we sow.
Growing up, I had a distinct disinclination for the color gray as a personal symbol. A large part of this springs from Civil War history. Although I grew up in rural Central Florida , I have always strongly identified with my origin among the people of Appalachian Western Pennsylvania from whom I spring and which are a strong influence on my view of the world . The lack of concern for the common folk that is characteristic of life in the South as well as a few strong ancestral grudges (not to mention my own experiences there) certainly made me rather disinclined to wish for any connection between me and the treacherous men in gray. I have always been much more comfortable in blue myself. No matter how my life has wandered, I suppose some things have never changed at all even yet.
 This is not true of all of the songs by the Grateful Dead, some of which were somewhat dark. See, for example:
 See, for example:
 See, for example:
 See, for example: