Shakedown Street (song)

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"Shakedown Street"
Single by Grateful Dead
from the album Shakedown Street
ReleasedNovember 15, 1978
GenreFunk rock
Songwriter(s)Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter
Producer(s)Lowell George

"Shakedown Street" is a song by the Grateful Dead. It was written by lyricist Robert Hunter and composed by guitarist Jerry Garcia.[1] It was released as the title track on the album Shakedown Street in November 1978. The song was first performed live on August 31, 1978 at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, in Morrison, Colorado.[1] The song "From the Heart of Me" was also played for the first time during the performance.[1] It depicts the reasons for inner-city urban decay. The album for which the song is the title track reached #41 on the Billboard Top 200 for 1979.[2]

The term "Shakedown Street" was later used colloquially to describe the area outside of Grateful Dead concerts where vendors sold their wares.


"Shakedown Street" was produced by Lowell George.[3] The song was recorded and mixed at the band's studio, Club Le Front, in San Rafael, California.[4] The recording took place throughout July 31, 1978 and August 18, 1978. "Shakedown Street" is found on the band's original album Shakedown Street (1978) as well as single recordings on Shakedown Street/France (1979), and Alabama Getaway/Shakedown Street (1981).[5]

Musicians include:[6]

Recognition and critical reception[edit]

The album Shakedown Street received heavy criticism for being choppy and poorly produced. Gary Terch from Rolling Stone said it “comes across as an artistic dead end” and “The disco tinges in the latter merely add to the catastrophe”.[7] Modern music critic Stephen Erlewine credits the album’s struggles to the unexpected use of disco and the primary use of Donna Jean Godchaux.[8] Another factor which heavily contributed to the album's poor organization was that first-time producer Lowell George was at the time under pressure with his band Little Feat.[8] However, even despite critics' doubts in Lowell's ability, band member Bill Kreutzmann stated in an interview:

Lowell was really like a member of the band more. If we were working on a song and he didn't feel it was going right, he'd just grab a guitar and come into the studio and show us how he felt it. That was one of the ways he'd communicate, and it worked great. I had a tremendous amount of respect for him.[6]

Despite the album's overall criticism the song "Shakedown Street" would eventually go on to have its own success. "Shakedown Street" was one of three songs composed by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter on the album to be added to the band's live songbook, and was from time to time the band's opening song.[2] When performed live, the band tended to extend the song's ending with instrumental jamming.[2] Live, it was also played in a slower R&B groove than the fast "disco" pace on the album.[citation needed]

In 1979 "Shakedown Street", along with the rest of the album, hit a peak of 41 on the Billboard top 200 chart; as a standalone single, the song failed to chart.[8]

In 2013, the song was featured in The Simpsons episode "Homerland".

Shakedown Street vending[edit]

After the song's success, many Grateful Dead followers, or Deadheads, used the name for the vending areas outside of Grateful Dead concerts during the ‘80s and ‘90s. These vending areas were a place to purchase merchandise, food, and often illicit items.[2]

In more recent years, the music and arts festival Bonnaroo has used the term to describe the concert's long strip of vending.[9]


  1. ^ a b c Dodd, David. "The Annotated 'Shakedown Street'". The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics. Retrieved 2007-02-21.
  2. ^ a b c d Planer, Lindsay. "Shakedown Street" song review. n. pag. Allmusic. Web. Retrieved 21 Sep 2011.
  3. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 283. CN 5585.
  4. ^ "Shakedown Street : Review". 2000-06-30. Retrieved 2016-03-14.
  5. ^ "Grateful Dead Family Discography: Shakedown Street / France". Retrieved 2016-03-14.
  6. ^ a b "Grateful Dead Family Discography: Shakedown Street". 1978-11-15. Retrieved 2016-03-14.
  7. ^ Von, Gary (1979-03-08). "The Grateful Dead Shakedown Street Album Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2016-03-14.
  8. ^ a b c Stephen Thomas Erlewine (1978-11-15). "Shakedown Street - Grateful Dead | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-03-14.
  9. ^ "Bonnaroo Top 5 Activities: #4—Shakedown Street". Archived from the original on March 27, 2012. Retrieved September 28, 2011.

External links[edit]