American Beauty (album)

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American Beauty
A woodgrain panel with a circle in the middle—inscribed is a rose surrounded by the words "American Beauty".
Studio album by Grateful Dead
Released November 1, 1970 (1970-11-01)
Recorded August–September 1970
Studio Wally Heider Studios, San Francisco
Length 42:21
Label Warner Bros.
Grateful Dead chronology
Vintage Dead
American Beauty
Historic Dead
Singles from American Beauty
  1. "Truckin'"/"Ripple"
    Released: January 1971
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars [2]
Robert Christgau A− [3]
Rolling Stone 5/5 stars [4]
Sputnikmusic 5/5 stars [5]

American Beauty is the fifth Grateful Dead studio album, released on November 1, 1970, by Warner Bros. Records. The album continued with the folk rock and country music style as on their previous album Workingman's Dead, which was released earlier in the year. The sound of the album focused more on folk harmonies and major-key melodies, showing influence from Bob Dylan and Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young. The songs within the album contain lyrics written by Robert Hunter and also sees Jerry Garcia play pedal steel guitar in place of lead guitar.

Upon release, American Beauty entered the Billboard 200 chart and ultimately peaked at number 13 on the chart. On July 11, 1974, the album was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America, and later reached Platinum and double Platinum certification in 1986 and 2001, respectively. In 2003, the album was ranked number 258 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.


The band began recording American Beauty only a few months after the release of Workingman's Dead, and without their regular sound crew, which was out on the road as part of the Medicine Ball Caravan tour (which the Dead were originally scheduled to join), and this led to staff engineer Stephen Barncard replacing Bob Matthews as producer—"a move that irks Matthews to this day". Barncard mused that "I had heard bad stories about engineers' interactions with the Dead but what I found were a bunch of hardworking guys".[6]

Both Workingman's Dead and American Beauty were innovative at the time for their fusion of bluegrass, rock and roll, folk, and, especially, country music. Compared to Workingman's Dead, American Beauty had even less lead guitar work from Jerry Garcia, who instead filled the void with pedal steel guitar passages on both albums. It was during the recording of this album that Garcia first collaborated with mandolinist David Grisman. "I just bumped into Jerry at a baseball game in Fairfax, and he said, 'Hey, you wanna play on this record we're doing?'" commented Grisman.[7] Phil Lesh, in his autobiography, commented "the magnetism of the scene at Wally Heider's recording studio made it a lot easier for me to deal with Dad's loss and my new responsibilities. Some of the best musicians around were hanging there during that period; with Paul Kantner and Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane, the Dead, Santana, Crosby, Nash, and Neil Young working there, the studio became jammer heaven. Thank the Lord for music; it's a healing force beyond words to describe."[8] Howard Wales, another musician from outside of the band, added keyboards on three songs. Drummer Bill Kreutzmann commented, "[Howard] Wales came to us through Jerry, who played with him in side projects. [He] had done session work with James Brown and The Four Tops before we brought him in for American Beauty."[9] Massachusetts Institute of Technology music student Ned Lagin, a jazz aficionado who began corresponding with the band after attending their 1969 New Year's Eve concert at the Boston Tea Party, also contributed piano to one track.[10]

Though both albums focused on Americana songcraft, Workingman's Dead mixed the grittier Bakersfield sound with the band's psychedelic roots, whereas the mostly-acoustic American Beauty focused more on major-key melodies and folk harmonies, evincing the influence of Dylan and studio neighbors/friends Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young. Kreutzmann later explained, "The singers in our band really learned a lot about harmonizing [from] Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, who had just released their seminal album Déjà Vu. Jerry played pedal steel...on that record. Stephen Stills lived at Mickey's ranch...and David Crosby enjoyed partying as much as we did. So our circles overlapped."[11]

"Truckin'" and "Ripple" were released as singles,[12] and the songs "Box of Rain", "Sugar Magnolia", and "Friend of the Devil" also received radio play. The single version of "Truckin'" is a completely different mix, with extra lead guitar fills throughout, reverb on Weir's vocals, fewer verses, and without Wales's organ part.

In his book on Garcia, Blair Jackson noted that "if you liked rock'n'roll in 1970 but didn't like the Dead, you were out of luck, because they were inescapable that summer and fall".[7] American Beauty peaked at No. 30 on Billboard's Pop Albums chart (North America), while the single, "Truckin'", peaked at No. 64 on the Pop Singles chart and achieved considerable FM rock radio airplay. It was the final album with Mickey Hart until his return to the band four years later in 1975.


The title wording on the front cover is an ambigram; it can also be read as "American Reality".[13] The artwork was produced by Mouse-Kelley Studios.


Andy Zwerling of Rolling Stone felt that the album was a continuation of Workingman's Dead, though there was more care and contentment in the singing, as well as the instrument playing being rich.[14] Robert Christgau also compared the album favorably to Workingman's Dead, feeling it was "sweeter vocally and more direct instrumentally".[15]

Washington Post writer Tom Zito felt that the group's newest album showed "wisdom of age" when compared to their earlier works, while maintaining an "exuberance of youth."[16] Zito went on to say the songs on the album were "soft and gentle" and emphasized vocals other instruments.[16]


Jason Ankeny in AllMusic feels that the album is the Dead's "studio masterpiece", and in comparing it to Workingman's Dead, it is "more representative of the group as a collective unit".[17] In 2003, the album was ranked number 258 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The American National Association of Recording Merchandisers placed the album at number 20 in its 2007 list of "definitive 200 albums".[18] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[19]

In 1991, Rolling Stone ranked American Beauty's album cover as the 57th best of all time.[20]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter and all lead vocals by Jerry Garcia except where noted.

Side one[edit]

  1. "Box of Rain" (Phil Lesh, Robert Hunter) – 5:18 (lead singer: Phil Lesh)
  2. "Friend of the Devil" (Garcia, John Dawson, Hunter) – 3:24
  3. "Sugar Magnolia" (Bob Weir, Hunter) – 3:19 (lead singer: Bob Weir)
  4. "Operator" (Ron McKernan) – 2:25 (lead singer: Ron "Pigpen" McKernan)
  5. "Candyman" – 6:14

Side two[edit]

  1. "Ripple" – 4:09
  2. "Brokedown Palace" – 4:09
  3. "Till the Morning Comes" – 3:08
  4. "Attics of My Life" – 5:12 (lead singers: The Grateful Dead)
  5. "Truckin'" (Garcia, Lesh, Weir, Hunter) – 5:03 (lead singers: Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir)

2001 Rhino reissue[edit]

  1. "Truckin'" (Single Version) (Garcia, Lesh, Weir, Hunter) – 3:17
  2. "Friend of the Devil" (Live – May 15, 1970 at Fillmore East in New York City) (Garcia, Dawson, Hunter) – 4:21[a]
  3. "Candyman" (Live – April 15, 1970 at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco) – 5:18[b]
  4. "Till the Morning Comes" (Live – October 4, 1970 at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco) – 3:20[c]
  5. "Attics of My Life" (Live – June 6, 1970 at Fillmore West in San Francisco) – 6:31
  6. "Truckin'" (Live – December 26, 1970 at Legion Stadium in El Monte, California) (Garcia, Lesh, Weir, Hunter) – 10:10
  7. "Ripple" (Single Edit) – 3:02
  8. American Beauty radio promo – 1:11


The final two tracks are unlisted. The "American Beauty Promo" is a radio commercial promoting the release of this album.

  1. ^ Later released with more selections from this date on Road Trips Volume 3 Number 3
  2. ^ Later released with entire concert performance on 30 Trips Around the Sun
  3. ^ Another track from this date is a bonus on Workingman's Dead



Year Chart Position
1971 Billboard 200 30[24]
Year Single Chart Position
1971 "Truckin'" Billboard Hot 100 64[25]


Certification Date
Gold[26] July 11, 1974
Platinum[26] October 13, 1986
Double Platinum[26] August 24, 2001

Release history[edit]

The album was released in a multitude of ways in the years since its original release.[17] In 2001, the CD version was remastered, expanded and was also part of the The Golden Road (1965–1973) 12-CD box set. This version included live and unreleased studio tracks. On October 24, 2004, it was released as a DualDisc recording, including a DVD side with interviews with Mickey Hart and Bob Weir, a photo gallery, and lyrics to all songs. Additionally in 2001 a standalone DVD-Audio version was released including a 5.1 Surround Sound mix. The album—including the re-release bonus tracks—is also available on the iTunes Store.

Region Date Label Format Catalog
United States 1970-11-01 Warner Bros. LP WS 1893
1978 Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab MFS-1-014
Worldwide 1987 Warner Bros. Compact Disc 1893-2
Cassette tape M5-1893
1990 LP 1893
United States 2001 Rhino DVD-Audio 74385
2003 CD 74397†
2004-10-24 Warner Bros./Rhino DualDisc 74385
2007 Grateful Dead CD 74794
Worldwide Rhino 1893
WEA/Rhino LP 8122736821

† Re-mastered edition with bonus tracks

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rosner, Ben (July 4, 2016). "The 10 Most Patriotic Albums". Paste. Retrieved July 23, 2016. 
  2. ^ Allmusic Review
  3. ^ Grateful Dead album ratings at
  4. ^ Grateful Dead album ratings, Rolling Stone
  5. ^ American Beauty at Sputnikmusic
  6. ^ Garcia: An American Life by Blair Jackson, Penguin Books, 1999, p. 196.
  7. ^ a b Garcia: An American Life by Blair Jackson, Penguin Books, 1999, p. 202.
  8. ^ Phil Lesh: Searching for the Sound by Phil Lesh, Little, Brown and Company, 2005, p. 190.
  9. ^ Kreutzmann, Bill (2015). Deal. St. Martin's Press, New York. Chapter 10. ISBN 978-1-250-03380-2. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ Kreutzmann, Bill (2015). Deal. St. Martin's Press, New York. Chapter 9. ISBN 978-1-250-03380-2. 
  12. ^ List of Grateful Dead singles on
  13. ^ Zwerling, Andy. American Beauty review from Rolling Stone, posted on Musical Stew Daily
  14. ^ Zwerling, Andy (December 24, 1970). "American Beauty | Album Reviews &#124". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 4, 2011. 
  15. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Robert Christgau: CG: Grateful Dead". Retrieved December 4, 2011. 
  16. ^ a b Tom Zito (November 28, 1970). "The Grateful Dead: Settling Down". The Washington Post. p. B6. Retrieved February 6, 2016. (subscription required (help)). 
  17. ^ a b Ankeny, Jason. "American Beauty – Grateful Dead | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved December 4, 2011. 
  18. ^ "2007 National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) definitive 200 albums – All Time Top 200 Albums". 2008. Retrieved December 4, 2011. 
  19. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (7 February 2006). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5. 
  20. ^ "Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Album Covers". Rate Your Music. November 14, 1991. Retrieved March 18, 2011. 
  21. ^ "Billboard 200 album chart position". Rovi Corporation/Billboard. Retrieved November 22, 2010. 
  22. ^ "Billboard Hot 100 singles chart position". Rovi Corporation/Billboard. Retrieved November 22, 2010. 
  23. ^ a b c "RIAA Gold & Platinum database-American Beauty". Retrieved February 28, 2009. [permanent dead link]