Day 162: Easy Wind, 11/8/69

Grateful Dead Dick's Picks 16 album cover artwork

Easy Wind had a short life in the Dead’s live repertoire. It was only played 36 times between late 1969 and early 1971. This version, captured on Dick’s Picks, Vol. 16 was the 6th version ever performed. All told six live versions of the song have been released in one capacity or another (the live version on the expanded Workingman’s Dead was also included in the 2010 30 Days of Dead).

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The Dead recorded Workingman’s Dead, the album on which Easy Wind appears in February 1970 and you can hear in this early version that the band was still feeling out the song to see how to best approach it. The album version is a bit faster than this and other early live versions, but it’s fun to sit back and hear the song develop over time. That’s part of why we do this right? To see how songs morph and change as personnel and technology change as well? That’s certainly part of the fun for me.

Clearly still in its protean phase this take on Easy Wind is somewhere between plodding and loping. I assume that TC is playing organ while Pig is singing because there are some nice sweeps and fills being played here. After a verse or two it’s clear that the band has settled into the song and everything sounds a bit more cohesive. There’s still that deliberateness to the song, but at the start it seemed like everyone was overly cautious and trying not to bump into each other. By the time Pig starts blowing his harp you can tell everyone has a sense for what they’re doing. Phil runs scales up and down his bass, as is his wont. Pig’s harp solo has the same laid-back deliberate feel to it, which is a neat way to listen to the harmonica. Up next is Jerry and he dives into his blues manual so as to create some noise. His solo makes me think of a blacksmith forging a piece of iron. It’s methodical and focused, but there are a few sparks flying around, too. One last verse and it’s on to the next song. The cat calls from the crowd suggest that this new tune met with approval.

Complete Setlist 11/8/69

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  1. There were not many live versions of this out there at the time of DP16, and this was the first one released. It starts with a chorus, which I think was normal for all but the studio version. The drummers seem to have a hard time settling on a groove throughout the shifting rhythm patterns. Some promise is heard however, as Pigpen is a trooper on the vocals. When the instrumental part comes up, the band just grooves through it rather than the expected harp solo. Oh, there it finally is. Maybe he couldn’t find the harp. But now we have five minutes left. A broken-groove jam tries to limp back onto the road and it begins to succeed with the help of Pigpen’s harp playing. He stops and yells, “Hey!” at Garcia, prompting him to get things moving on guitar. The jam begins to warm up in response to Jerry’s licks here and we may have salvation at last. Pig hits the last verse with more juice than before and the song finally seems complete. The bluesy last chorus leads to a big ending and the crowd hoots approvingly.

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