|Single by Grateful Dead|
|from the album American Beauty|
|Released||November 1, 1970|
|Genre||Blues rock, country rock, roots rock|
|Length||5:09 Album version
3:13 Single cut
|Grateful Dead singles chronology|
Written by band members Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, and lyricist Robert Hunter, "Truckin'" molds classic Grateful Dead rhythms and instrumentation with lyrics that use the band's misfortunes on the road as a metaphor for getting through the constant changes in life. Its climactic refrain, "What a long, strange trip it's been," has achieved widespread cultural use in the years since the song's release.
"Truckin'" was considered a "catchy shuffle" by the band members. Garcia himself commented that "the early stuff we wrote that we tried to set to music was stiff because it wasn't really meant to be sung ... the result of [lyricist Robert Hunter getting into our touring world], the better he could write ... and the better we could create music around it." The communal, shared-group-experience feel of the song is brought home by the participation of all four of the group's chief songwriters (Garcia, Weir, Lesh, and Hunter), since, in Phil Lesh's words, "we took our experiences on the road and made it poetry," lyrically and musically. He goes on to say that "the last chorus defines the band itself."
Single and album history
The song was taken from the American Beauty album and edited down in length from five to three minutes for release as a single. In addition to being shorter, the single version had some audible differences compared to the album version: it featured sections of lead guitar in places where it's faded down on the album version, and has a strongly processed verse vocal, different vocal track for the "Sometimes the lights..." portion, and is missing the album version's organ part.
The single reached number 64 on January 27, 1971 on the U.S. Pop Singles chart and stayed on the chart for eight weeks. "Truckin'" was the highest-charting pop single the group would have until the surprise top-ten performance of "Touch of Grey" sixteen years later. Moreover, the album track was heavily played on progressive rock and album oriented rock radio stations and accordingly helped popularize the group among general rock audiences.
The song was influenced by a dance from the twenties called "jiggeln'". It was more influenced by underground comix artist R. Crumb's drawing "Keep on Truckin'" that appeared in Zap Comix #1, released in San Francisco in 1968.
|Peak Chart Date||Position||Duration|
|December 25, 1971||64 ||8 weeks|
A longer rendition that turns into a jam was included on the popular 1972 live album Europe '72 segueing into "Epilogue" followed by "Prelude".
Truckin' typically took its spot in the second set of a concert; usually soon before or after Drums/Space in 1980s. Most of the time Truckin' would transition into "The Other One", a stellar example can be found on Dick's Picks Volume 18 (Truckin' >Drums >The Other One). That version has the typical "The Other One" teaser which was normally present in the end of a Truckin' jam whether or not "The Other One" was played.
Over the band's long concert career, "Truckin'" was performed 520 times, making it the eighth-most performed Dead song.
It was the first song played during the five-show Fare Thee Well shows in 2015.
- Grateful Dead: The Illustrated Trip . Jake Woodward, et al. Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2003, pg. 112.
- Emblematic of the Grateful Dead sound that gained them four albums in the Rolling Stone 500 greatest albums list within the 1968-1970 period, a list they did not appear on again.
- Jazz Dance: The Story of American Vernacular Dance by Marshall Stearns and Jean Stearns, De Capo Press, 1994 ISBN 0-306-80553-7.
- Garcia: An American Life by Blair Jackson, Penguin Books, 1999, pg. 197.
- Phil Lesh: Searching for the Sound by Phil Lesh, Little, Brown and Company, 2005, pg. 191.
- Deadbase X: The Complete Guide to Grateful Dead Song Lists by John W. Scott, Mike Dolgushkin, Stu Nixon, Deadbase, 1997.