Workingman's Dead

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Workingman's Dead
A black-on-sepia image of men in Stetson hats standing along a road.
Studio album by Grateful Dead
Released June 14, 1970 (1970-06-14)
Recorded February 1970
Studio Pacific High Recording, San Francisco
Length 36:00
Label Warner Bros.
  • Bob Matthews
  • Betty Cantor
  • Grateful Dead
Grateful Dead chronology
Workingman's Dead
Vintage Dead
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars [1]
American Songwriter 5/5 stars[2]
Robert Christgau A [3]
Rolling Stone 5/5 stars [4]

Workingman's Dead is the fourth Grateful Dead studio album. It was recorded in February 1970 and originally released on June 14, 1970. The album and its studio follow-up, American Beauty, were recorded back-to-back using a similar style, eschewing the psychedelic experimentation of previous albums and focusing on Americana-styled songcraft.

In 2003, the album was ranked number 262 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

It was reissued in 2003 in three different formats: as part of the The Golden Road (1965–1973) 12-CD box set, as a remastered and expanded CD, and as a DVD-audio release. The first two contain eight exclusive tracks not found on the original 1970 release while the latter contains just the original tracks rendered in DVD-Audio. In 2014, it was reissued as a two-LP set mastered at 45 rpm by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab.


The title of the album comes from a comment from Jerry Garcia to lyricist Robert Hunter about how "this album was turning into the Workingman's Dead version of the band".[5]

The band returned to the Pacific High Recording Studio in San Francisco to record the album and spent just nine days there. Garcia noted that "let's do it all in three weeks and get it the hell out of the way".[6] Besides the weight of their debt in producing their previous album, Aoxomoxoa, the band was also dealing with the stress of a recent drug bust in New Orleans—which could have possibly resulted in jail time—and their manager Lenny Hart (father of drummer Mickey Hart) skipping town with a sizable chunk of the band's wealth. "In midst of all this adverse stuff that was happening ... [recording the album] was definitely an upper," said Garcia in an interview.[7]

Garcia has commented that much of the sound of the album comes both from his pairing with Hunter as well as the band's friendship with Crosby, Stills and Nash. "Hearing those guys sing and how nice they sounded together, we thought, 'We can try that. Let's work on it a little,'" commented Garcia.[8]

Songs such as "Uncle John's Band", "High Time", and "Cumberland Blues" were brought to life with soaring harmonies and layered vocal textures that had not been a part of the band's sound until then. According to the 1992 Dead oral history, Aces Back to Back, in the summer of 1968, Stephen Stills vacationed at Mickey Hart's ranch in Novato. "Stills lived with me for three months around the time of CSN's first record," recalls Hart, "and he and David Crosby really turned Jerry and Bobby onto the voice as the holy instrument. You know, 'Hey, is this what a voice can do?' That turned us away from pure improvisation and more toward songs."

Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, the companion album that followed months later, were, according to drummer Bill Kreutzmann, both influenced by the Bakersfield Sound. He commented, "We tried to be like a Bakersfield band—but one that still sounded like we were from 300 miles north of that town...we held to our psychedelic roots. Workingman's Dead was all about discovering the song...American Beauty became all about having the harmonies to do that."[9]

Warner Bros. released "Uncle John's Band" backed with "New Speedway Boogie" as a single, but it received limited airplay. This was neither, as once postulated, because of length issues nor concerns about profanity, since the single issue had been edited to a very radio-friendly three-minute length and the word "goddamn" removed. "Casey Jones" was also released as a single, but did not chart in the U.S.

Lyricist Robert Hunter appears as the seventh member on the cover of the album.[10]

The album was voted by readers of Rolling Stone as the best album of 1970, in front of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's Déjà Vu and Van Morrison's Moondance.[5]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, except where noted.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Uncle John's Band"   4:42
2. "High Time"   5:12
3. "Dire Wolf"   3:11
4. "New Speedway Boogie"   4:01
Side two
No. Title Length
5. "Cumberland Blues" (Garcia, Phil Lesh, Hunter) 3:14
6. "Black Peter"   5:41
7. "Easy Wind" (Hunter) 4:57
8. "Casey Jones"   4:24
2003 reissue bonus tracks
No. Title Length
9. "New Speedway Boogie (alternate mix)"   4:10
10. "Dire Wolf (live)"   2:31
11. "Black Peter (live)"   9:07
12. "Easy Wind (live)"   8:09
13. "Cumberland Blues (live)"   4:52
14. "Mason's Children (live)" (Garcia, Lesh, Bob Weir, Hunter) 6:32
15. "Uncle John's Band (live)"   7:57
16. "Radio promo"   1:00
Bonus tracks production details
  • "Dire Wolf" recorded at Santa Rosa Veteran's Memorial Hall, Santa Rosa, CA on 6/27/69
  • "Black Peter" recorded at Golden Hall Community Concourse, San Diego, CA on 1/10/70
  • "Easy Wind" recorded at Springer's Ballroom, Gresham, OR on 1/16/70
  • "Cumberland Blues" recorded at the Oregon State University (Gymnasium), Corvallis, OR on 1/17/70
  • "Mason's Children" recorded at the Civic Auditorium, Honolulu, HI on 1/24/70 (later released on Dave's Picks Volume 19)
  • "Uncle John's Band" recorded at Winterland, San Francisco, CA on 10/4/70 (sleevenotes incorrectly list as recorded at Winterland, 12/23/70);[11][12] another track from this date is a bonus on American Beauty


Grateful Dead

Charts and certifications[edit]


Chart Position
Pop Albums 27[13]

RIAA Certification[14]

Certification Date
Gold July 11, 1974
Platinum October 13, 1986

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ankeny, Jason. Workingman's Dead at AllMusic
  2. ^ Beviglia, Jim (January–February 2014). "The Grateful Dead: Workingman's Dead". American Songwriter. ForASong Media, LLC. 29 (2): 55. ISSN 0896-8993. Retrieved December 27, 2013. 
  3. ^ "CG: Grateful Dead". Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  4. ^ [1] Archived June 28, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ a b Grateful Dead: The Illustrated Trip . Jake Woodward, et al. Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2003, p. 108.
  6. ^ Garcia: An American Life by Blair Jackson, Penguin Books, 1999, p. 181.
  7. ^ Garcia: An American Life by Blair Jackson, Penguin Books, 1999, p. 189.
  8. ^ Grateful Dead: The Illustrated Trip. Jake Woodward, et al. Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2003, p. 119.
  9. ^ Kreutzmann, Bill (2015). Deal. St. Martin's Press, New York. Chapter 9. ISBN 978-1-250-03380-2. 
  10. ^ "The Grateful Dead - Workingman's Dead _ Album Cover Location". 
  11. ^ "Grateful Dead Guide: The Mysterious Case of 12/17/70". 2010-10-05. Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  12. ^ "Internet Archive Forums: Uncle John's TDIH". 2008-11-01. Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  13. ^ "Top 200 Albums - week of June 27, 1970". Billboard. Scroll down to Workingman's Dead and hover over. Retrieved 3 December 2016. 
  14. ^ "RIAA Gold & Platinum database-Workingman's Dead". Retrieved February 28, 2009.