Dark Star (song)

Dark Star (song)
"Dark Star"
Single by Grateful Dead
B-side "Born Cross-Eyed"
Released April 1968
Format 7"
Recorded 1968
Genre Psychedelic rock
Length 2:44
Label Warner Bros.
Writer(s) Grateful Dead
Robert Hunter
Producer Grateful Dead
David Hassinger
Grateful Dead singles chronology
"The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)/Cream Puff War"
"Dark Star/Born Cross-Eyed"
"Dupree's Diamond Blues/Cosmic Charlie"

"Dark Star" is a song released as a single by the Grateful Dead. It was written by lyricist Robert Hunter and composed by lead guitarist Jerry Garcia;[1] however, compositional credit is sometimes extended to include Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart, the late Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, and Bob Weir.[2][3] "Dark Star" was an early Grateful Dead classic and became one of their most loved and anticipated numbers, often with the group using it as a vehicle for musical improvisation sessions that extended beyond the original structure of the song. The song is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list.

Dark Star was the epitome of Grateful Dead's approach to live music and group think. Their most exploratory renditions have never been equaled or copied within context of a rock n' roll performance or recording. Using improvisation techniques, such as playing without meter, let the band to work with ideas that no other rock band would explore, let alone exploit. Jerry Garcia's playing, was often the catalyst to many musical themes that would be nonce to that performance.



In May 1967, Garcia composed the preliminary chords of the song, but it was at the time without lyrics.[1] A handful of months later, Robert Hunter, who would become a longtime collaborator with the Grateful Dead, arrived in California and overheard the band playing around with the track. He immediately sat down and wrote the opening line, contributing the lyrics and name of the song.[1]


"Dark Star" was initially released as a two-minute single in 1968, backed with "Born Cross-Eyed", a track written by rhythm guitarist Bob Weir. The single, to quote Phil Lesh, "sank like a stone."[1]

Due to the relentless touring of the Grateful Dead, and the fact that fans were allowed to tape the band's shows, many live versions of "Dark Star" exist. Interesting to note: the studio recording of Dark Star lasted only 2:40, yet the song was known for its lengthy live performances, many of which clocked in at 20–30 minutes. Running over 23 minutes (13 minutes of it consisting of Jerry Garcia's guitar solo), the popular rendition as found on the Live/Dead live album was a captivating blend of psychedelia, jazz, and jam elements. "Dark Star" defines the Dead's early improvisational music.

There is spirited debate over which performance of "Dark Star" ran the longest. The December 6, 1973 rendition is sometimes credited as being the longest uninterrupted performance of the song lasting 43:27. The “Dark Star” from August 28, 1969 has been cited as lasting 63:51, although this includes a 9:49 jam on the theme of another song of the band called "The Eleven." Some purists point out that this performance was not by the Grateful Dead, but by “Mickey and the Hartbeats,” the name adopted for shows that band members played in 1968 and 1969 without Weir or McKernan.

After 1973, for several years, "Dark Star" fell out of the normal rotation at Dead shows, and after 1974 became quite rare. Being present for a "Dark Star" performance became a "Holy Grail" for Deadheads. The song became so legendary that it was often referred to as "IT" by dedicated Heads. Knowing this, the Dead would sometimes tease the song's introduction before switching into another song, finally bringing it back in the end of the seventies with New Years 1978, the closing of Winterland. (Semi-regular guest pianist Bruce Hornsby would later incorporate such teases into his own concerts, knowing a good number of Deadheads might be in attendance.)

After the New Years 1981 show "Dark Star" would only appear once more in the first half of the eighties (at the Hearst Greek Theatre in July 1984) and would lay dormant until revived at the legendary "Formerly The Warlocks" Hampton Coliseum two-day run on October 9, 1989. After its 1989 revival, this song would become a dreadnought, performed frequently through 1990, and occasionally through the rest of the band's career. A memorable post-revival Dark Star is from The Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY, March 29, 1990 - with jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis sitting in with the band. One of these performances was featured in the syndicated The Grateful Dead Hour radio program, extending the song's legend somewhat outside the inner circle of Deadheads.

In 1993, Phil Lesh approached music collage artist John Oswald to do a project with "Dark Star." He was given over a hundred different performances of the song from between 1968 and 1993. Oswald then built, layered, and "folded" these many performances to produce one large, recomposed version, just sixteen minutes short of two hours in length. The project is called Grayfolded. This is the only recording known to include performances by every member of the group, from inception in 1965 through 1995.

Selected performances

February 13, 1970 Fillmore East, New York, N.Y.

April 29, 1972 Musikhalle, Hamburg, West Germany


  1. ^ a b c d Lesh, Phil (2005). Searching for the Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-00998-9. 
  2. ^ Dodd, David (2003). "The Annotated "Dark Star"". The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics. http://arts.ucsc.edu/gdead/agdl/darkstar.html. Retrieved 2007-05-19. 
  3. ^ Allan, Alex. "Dark Star". Grateful Dead Lyric and Song Finder. Whitegum. http://whitegum.com/~acsa/introjs.htm?/~acsa/songfile/DARKSTAR.HTM. Retrieved 2007-05-19. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Dark Fantasy (song) — Dark Fantasy Song by Kanye West from the album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Recorded 2010 …   Wikipedia

  • Dark Lady (song) — Dark Lady Single by Cher from the album Dark Lady B side …   Wikipedia

  • Dark Star — or Darkstar may refer to: Contents 1 Astronomy 2 Media and entertainment 2.1 Film …   Wikipedia

  • Dark Star 'chanson) — Dark Star (chanson) Dark Star est une chanson du groupe de rock Grateful Dead. Les paroles ont été écrites par Robert Hunter et la musique a été composée par le guitariste Jerry Garcia[1] mais elle est aussi créditée à Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Dark Star Orchestra — The Dark Star Orchestra performing on February 14, 2007 at Freebird Live. Background information Origin Chicago, Illinois, USA …   Wikipedia

  • Dark Star (film) — Dark Star Theatrical poster Directed by John Carpenter Produced by John Carpenter …   Wikipedia

  • Dark Star Brewery — Dark Star is a brewery in currently located in Partridge Green, in the county of West Sussex, England. Contents 1 Name 2 History 3 Beers 4 Awards …   Wikipedia

  • Dark Horse — may refer to: Dark horse, a political candidate who is nominated unexpectedly, or an underdog in other fields who achieves unprecedented success Contents 1 Music 2 Film and television …   Wikipedia

  • Star One — ist ein niederländisches Musikprojekt von Arjen Lucassen und der Ausgleich für das Ambeon Projekt. Mit Star One widmete sich Lucassen den harten Heavy Metal Klängen. Zum einen ist es sehr stark an Ayreon angelehnt, zum anderen ist es doch eine… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Dark Wave — Entstehungsphase: späte 70er / 80er Jahre Entstehungsort: Westeuropa / Nordamerika Herkunftsgenre: New Wave · Post Punk …   Deutsch Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.