Dark Star

Grateful Dead

About Dark Star

"Dark Star" is a song released as a single by the Grateful Dead on Warner Bros. records in 1968. It was written by lyricist Robert Hunter and composed by lead guitarist Jerry Garcia; however, compositional credit is sometimes extended to include Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, and Bob Weir. "Dark Star" was an early Grateful Dead classic and became one of their most loved and anticipated numbers, often with the group using it as a vehicle for musical improvisation sessions that extended well beyond the original structure of the song. The song is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list and was ranked at number 57 on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time. "Dark Star" was often the basis for jamming during the Dead's live shows, allowing the band to employ techniques typical of improvisational jazz. 


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Dark star crashes, pouring its light into ashes
Reason tatters, the forces tear loose from the axis
Searchlight casting for faults in the clouds of delusion
Shall we go, you and I while we can
Through the transitive nightfall of diamonds?

Mirror shatters in formless reflections of matter
Glass hand dissolving in ice, petal flowers revolving
Lady in velvet recedes in the nights of good-bye
Shall we go, you and I while we can
Through the transitive nightfall of diamonds?

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Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead was an American rock band formed in 1965 in Palo Alto, California. The band was known for its unique and eclectic style, which fused elements of rock, folk, bluegrass, blues, reggae, country, improvisational jazz, psychedelia, and space rock, and for live performances of long musical improvisation. "Their music," writes Lenny Kaye, "touches on ground that most other groups don't even know exists." These various influences were distilled into a diverse and psychedelic whole that made the Grateful Dead "the pioneering Godfathers of the jam band world." They were ranked 57th in the issue The Greatest Artists of all Time by Rolling Stone magazine. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 and their Barton Hall Concert at Cor… more »

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Written by: Jerome J. Garcia, Michael S. Hart, Robert C. Hunter, William Kreutzmann, Philip Lesh, Ronald Charles McKernan, Robert Hall Weir

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

Lyrics Licensed & Provided by LyricFind

12 facts about this song

Song Composition
"Dark Star" is largely characterized by its improvisation, changing significantly from performance to performance. It allowed Grateful Dead members to experiment extensively during live performances.
First Performance
The song was performed for the first time on December 13, 1967, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California.
Studio Recording
The only studio version of "Dark Star" was recorded and released as a single in 1968. It appears on the B-side of the "Dark Star" / "Born Cross-Eyed" single.
Live Performances
"Dark Star" became a staple of Grateful Dead’s live performances, with its full-length versions often extended to more than 20 minutes. The song has been performed live by the band about 230 times.
Lyrics Authors
The lyrics to "Dark Star" were written by Robert Hunter and the music was composed by Jerry Garcia, a founding member of the Grateful Dead.
Landmark Release
The version of "Dark Star" from the Live/Dead album, which lasted more than 23 minutes, is considered one of the high-water marks in the Grateful Dead's recording history.
Album Contribution
The song contributed significantly to the psychedelia of the Grateful Dead's 1970 album, "Live/Dead." It's often considered one of the best and definitive examples of the band's sound.
Deadhead Culture
"Dark Star" has developed cultural significance within the Grateful Dead's fanbase, the "Deadheads," due to its experimental nature and rarity in the band's setlists.
Song Revival
The song was performed infrequently during the late ‘70s and ‘80s but was revived in 1989 during their Hampton Coliseum shows, becoming a setlist staple again till the band’s disbandment in 1995.
Cover Versions
Various artists including David Bowie, Robyn Hitchcock, and the Flaming Lips have covered "Dark Star." The song's enduring popularity has seen it cross over into various genres.
According to songwriter Robert Hunter, the lyrics of "Dark Star" are intentionally ambiguous, open to various interpretations by the listener.
Other Media
The song is also central to the plot of the book "Dark Star: An Oral Biography of Jerry Garcia" by Robert Greenfield. The song's name was used as the title to represent Garcia’s pivotal role in the Grateful Dead.

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