Thursday, February 9, 2012

Death Don't Have no Mercy - Grateful Dead Song Review

Death Don't Have no Mercy is a great slow bluesy grind that the Dead played early in their career (from 1966 through 1970) and also revived in 1989.

Death Don't Have no Mercy was written by Reverend Gary Davis and Jerry Garcia sings the whole song on Live/Dead. I can only assume that he did so on all the old versions of the song.  The 1989 version of the tune has Jerry singing the first verse, then Bob, then Brent, and then Jerry.

This song is really dark, and could be boring.  But the performances I've heard are really ominous and the Dead "pull it off" by keeping the song interesting with this dark energy.

An Unbelievable Guitar Performance

The version that is on the So Many Roads Box Set features some really unbelievable soloing by Garcia. Garcia's lyrical guitar style is typically associated with clean jazzy leads (or at least that's what I feel best represents his talent).  I do not really associate Garcia with "shredding the blues" - which is what many guitarists build their entire career on.

However, this performance features Garcia "shredding the blues" and it is just an unbelievable lead.  It is really flawless and almost hard to believe it is a "one-take" live performance.  I could almost point to this guitar performance as a sort of pinnacle of Garcia's later years.  Also, bonus points for him pulling it off at Shoreline (commonly referred to as "Snoreline"), where Garcia (and the band) often seemed a little too relaxed to pull off career defining musical moments.

Here is the link where you can hear 9-29-89 Shoreline on

Death Don't Have no Mercy Song Rating on a Scale of 1-10: 8.3

Disclaimer: This is part of my blog that reviews all things Grateful Dead for fun. Music is a beautiful thing because it is so personal and subjective, so keep in mind that this is one man's opinion (and be sure to read my blog manifesto to understand a little more about where I'm coming from).

1 comment:

Jamie Breslow said...

I was there...I'm so fucking glad I was there.