Song of the Day #1,007: ‘Sugar Magnolia’ – Grateful Dead

I’m the farthest thing from a Deadhead you can imagine. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s a jam band. One of the reasons I don’t seek out more live music is the inevitable tendency for artists to stretch their songs to epic length while the crowd sways as if in a trance.

Screw that. I like songs. Get in, get out, don’t make it a second longer than it needs to be. Jam bands are public masturbators, and who needs to watch that?

That said, the Dead’s American Beauty is a damn fine album, one I revisited recently after not hearing it since college.

‘Box of Rain,’ ‘Friend Of the Devil,’ ‘Ripple,’ ‘Truckin’,’ ‘Operator’ — the track list reads like a greatest hits, and none of those songs lasts more than five minutes (most of them more like three or four). Why did they have to go ruin these fine songs by distorting them into 12-minute wank-fests onstage?

‘Sugar Magnolia’ is probably the best-known and best-loved of American Beauty‘s songs. Here it is in its proper form.

Sugar Magnolia blossom’s blooming
Head’s all empty and I don’t care
Saw my baby down by the river
Knew she’d have to come up soon for air

Sweet blossom come on under the willow
We can have high times if you’ll abide
We can discover the wonders of nature
Rolling in the rushes down by the riverside

She’s got everything delightful
She’s got everything I need
Takes the wheel when I’m seeing double
Pays my ticket when I speed

She come skimming through rays of violet
She can wade in a drop of dew
She don’t come and I don’t follow
Waits backstage while I sing to you

She can dance a Cajun rhythm
Jump like a Willys in four wheel drive
She’s a summer love in the spring, fall and winter
She can make happy any man alive

Sugar magnolia
Ringin’ that blue bell
Caught up in sunlight
Come on out singing
I’ll walk you in the sunshine
Come on honey, come along with me

She’s got everything delightful
She’s got everything I need
A breeze in the pines in the summer night moonlight
Crazy in the sunlight yes indeed

Sometimes when the cuckoo’s crying
When the moon is halfway down
Sometimes when the night is dying
I take me out and I wander round
I wander round

Sunshine daydream
Walk you the tall trees
Going where the wind goes
Blooming like a red rose
Breathing more freely
Light out singing
I’ll walk you in the morning sunshine
Sunshine daydream
Walk you in the sunshine

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,007: ‘Sugar Magnolia’ – Grateful Dead

  1. Dana says:

    I beg to differ that this is the Dead’s best known song from this album, as I don’t know it, and I do know “Truckin'” I think that was their biggest hit, no? And I know “Friend of the Devil” becuase of the Crows’ cover.

    I find those songs I have heard of the Dead pleasant enough. Much like Pink Floyd, I had to get over my bias against a “druggie” band (as in music one hears while getting stoned). It is probably unfortunate that both bands have that reputation because both made some good music, though both were also hyped beyond the quality of their songs by the likes of Rolling Stone and other critics (in my view).

  2. Amy says:

    Dana’s comment touches on what I was thinking while reading your blog. I was toying with extending your public masturbation analogy, but now I’m thinking better of it 😉

    What the hell… I’ll try to “get in, get out” and not “make it last a second longer than it needs to be.”

    In essence, I believe that these jam bands are providing for their drug taking fans the musical equivalent of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” for lovers. Yes, they do create a trance like effect, and, I think, that’s the point. Now, while I guess there might be some sort of bragging rights to say that you create music to which people either desire to get high or make love, I would find that niche a bit too limiting. I’m with you, Clay, in that I prefer music that was created to be heard and to which the songwriters would like their fans to pay attention, rather than to accompany their altered state of mind.

    So… yeah, I’m not a “Dead Head” either. 😉

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