Friend of the Devil

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"Friend of the Devil"
Song by Grateful Dead
from the album American Beauty
Released November 1970
Genre Folk rock, progressive bluegrass
Label Warner Bros.
Songwriter(s) Robert Hunter
Composer(s) Jerry Garcia and John Dawson
Producer(s) Grateful Dead, Steve Barncard
American Beauty track listing
"Box of Rain"
(1)
"Friend of the Devil"
(2)
"Sugar Magnolia"
(3)

"Friend of the Devil" is a song recorded by the Grateful Dead. The music was written by Jerry Garcia and John Dawson and the lyrics are by Robert Hunter. It is the second track of the Dead's 1970 album American Beauty.

"Friend of the Devil" is about an outlaw, on the run from the police. His crime is never explicitly stated. The Devil helps him escape, but winds up chasing him just as the law does; several lines of the song are ambiguous, and could refer to either law enforcement or servants of Satan, such as "I was trailed by twenty hounds", which could refer to either police dogs sniffing his trail, or mythical hellhounds.

According to band confederate Amy Moore, the song was partially inspired by rakish Grateful Dead road manager/advance man Rock Scully and his entanglements with various women, including longtime common-law wife Nicki Scully; the "child" invoked in the penultimate verse was a homage to Acacia Scully, a child from Nicki Scully's previous relationship who was adopted by the manager.[1]

The song is acoustic, like most of American Beauty. It is known for the guitar riff Garcia plays in the bass register, which is a descending G major scale (G F# E D C B A G). The song is among the most covered songs written by the Grateful Dead; Hunter later stated, "that was the closest we've come to what may be a classic song."

The song was introduced in concert on March 20th, 1970 at the Capital Theatre in Port Chester, NY. Following the group's October 1974-June 1976 touring hiatus, the song was performed in a significantly slower arrangement with extended guitar and keyboard solos. Loggins and Messina, whose version of the song was slowed down, might have inspired the Dead to do the same. In more recent history, Phil Lesh and Friends have performed a more uptempo version similar to the original.

Hunter plays a slightly different version on his album (released only in LP format) Jack O'Roses. He adds a final verse:

"You can borrow from the Devil/ You can borrow from a friend/ But the Devil'll give you twenty/ When your friend got only ten"

Cover versions[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]