Grateful Dead – Here Comes Sunshine

I want to thank all of you for reading last week’s “covers” week. Based on the positive response…I’ll start doing covers on Tuesdays coming up.

I just finished another Grateful Dead book so I’ve been listening to the Dead’s albums. Wake of the Flood has slowly become one of my favorites. It’s hard to beat American Beauty and Workingman’s Dead but it’s up there.

The verses of this song are straight-up Grateful Dead but the chorus reminds me a little of The Beatles. No, the Dead didn’t copy anything but it’s a type of chorus that the Beatles would attempt. Phil Lesh’s bass is prominent in this song…so is Jerry Garcia’s wonderful weaving guitar playing.

Garcia wrote the music and the Dead’s lyricist Robert Hunter wrote the verses. The song was influenced by a tragic event. Robert Hunter wrote in his book: Remembering the great Vanport, Washington flood of 1949, living in other people’s homes, a family abandoned by father, second grade. Hunter didn’t state the proper year or state of the flood but some about him.

Hunter was not in the flood but he was 7 years old and in second grade when it happened. His father around this time also abandoned his family. Hunter would live in different foster homes until he returned to his mom.

Vanport 1948

The song is about the flood that happened in Vanport City Oregon in 1948. Calling this a flood would be treating it mildly. It actually washed the town away. On Monday at 4:17 p.m. on Memorial Day 1948,  a combination of heavy rainfall and the Columbia River heavy with melted snowfall broke a portion of the dike surrounding Vanport. Floodwaters fifteen feet deep washed Vanport away.

Residents had been assured by authorities that the dikes were holding and that they would be warned in ample time to evacuate. The break caught everyone, including the authorities, by surprise. Thankfully, the swamps within Vanport absorbed the initial surge, allowing around 40 minutes for most people to escape Vanport to higher ground along Denver Avenue. Still, 15-16 (different sources) people lost their lives in the flood.

Vanport is no more. Several acres of the former city became “West Delta Park” which is now the Portland International Raceway.

The song was on the Wake of the Flood album released in 1973… but not without its problems. It came three long years after the Dead’s previous studio album, American Beauty. They did release the live  Europe 72 between the two albums. The Dead had just left Warner Bros and were without a record deal. So they did what other bands did at that time…make their own record company. This was the first album released on their new label.

Mickey Hart was not part of the Grateful Dead at this time. Mickey’s last show was 2/18/71 at the Capital Theater and he rejoined the band the last night of the “Farewell” shows at Winterland in October of ’74.

The album peaked at #18 on the Billboard Album Charts and #30 in Canada in 1973. This song was the B side to the single “Let Me Sing Your Blues Away.”

This would not be a Dead post if I didn’t give you a live version of it. 

Here Comes Sunshine

Wake of the flood, laughing water, forty-nine
Get out the pans, don’t just stand there dreaming
Get out the way, get out the way

Here comes sunshine
Here comes sunshine

Line up a long shot maybe try it two times, maybe more
Good to know you got shoes to wear, when you find the floor
Why hold out for more

Here comes sunshine
Here comes sunshine

Asking you nice, now, keep the mother rollin’
One more time, been down before
You just don’t have to go no more, no more

Here comes sunshine
Here comes sunshine


Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

34 thoughts on “Grateful Dead – Here Comes Sunshine”

  1. This was a pretty popular song for them as it was recorded 12 times and it was player 65 times live. I actually started a new challenge here on WordPress last year which I called Wednesday Thoughts, but it never took off. I used this phrase “keep the mother rollin’” for the first challenge. The live version is way better than the studio cut.

    Keep the Mother Rolling

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Another new one to me, also a bit of new history, had never heard of that flood washing away the town. Seems like unusually sparse lyrics for them, but it all works in the end. One has to wonder why in the world they got so little radio play in the ’70s when they kept putting out good , often radio-friendly , songs and like Deke says, selling out huge stadiums and fairgrounds year after year.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yea I don’t get it either…they were more of an album band than Zeppelin. This one would have been radio friendly.
      I remember first finding out about their name…thinking they were a heavy metal band.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. This is just a great album when in that laid-back frame of mind. Never knew the back story, but now as far as history goes, who, when visiting the Portland Speedway would know its past?
    The past doesn’t take long to get buried, or maybe it only seems that way as we get older?
    And don’t beat yourself up Max, there are more than a few casual music listeners who, on hearing the Grateful Dead moniker still think it is a Metal name!
    The live version is so ‘wherever the wandering musical muse takes us’ too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m really getting into this album more and more since my last post on them. Stella Blue as Jim brought up is a great one also. Listening to them live can be really good or it can become a chore…that was the appeal of them I guess.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. One more thing Obbverse and I’ll leave you alone. I’ve read where Hunter absolutely did not like anyone…even Jerry altering his lyrics.
        It makes sense listening now…you can tell by Jerry’s pausing (compared to other artists songs) lyrics to fit in a musical piece that he wrote. Like placing a small piece of a puzzle into a larger space.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m the same as you…not a huge fan but I do like a lot of their songs…I do like Blues For Allah…a little more experimental but I like it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Strange song. One might compare it to the Beatles version. It’s like the music by “The Rutles” not quite Beatles but a turned around hybrid. I enjoyed some of the Dead tunes and sorry that I missed the one show they gave in Dallas back in the 70s. Too bad Garcia didn’t stick around.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “Wake of the Flood” was never one of my favorite albums – I wanted to like it since it was the first release on their own label with their own distribution. Years later, I do like some of the songs. Thanks for the backstory on this one. I never did like Donna Godchaux’s vocals, though this was a period when the band could go anywhere at any time – not like the later concert period that always had separate songs in the first set, extended segues in the second set, and sections labeled as “drums” and “space” in that set. In the early 70s, brief quotations from other pieces could show up anywhere, as could extended improvisations with unexpected segues. As I write I’m listening to a concert from 11/11/73, just a month after this album was released.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree…Donna didn’t really fit to me…and to a lot of them. She was a good singer but it just didn’t go with them. She had a lot of trouble also hearing herself with them.
      The song that got me hooked on this album was Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodleoo. After that I didn’t stop listening.

      I listened to the Cornell 77 today some…every Dead Head I’ve known points to that one….but I do like their Europe 72 also.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Nice tune I had not known! I agree the chorus has a Beatles vibe to it. Stylistically, it reminds me a bit of Abbey Road’s “Sun King.”

    My knowledge of the Dead’s music remains pretty spotty. Based on what I’ve heard, I tend to prefer their earlier albums, especially “American Beauty” and “Workingman’s Dead”.

    By comparison, their endless live jams can test my patience, but that’s a general challenge I tend to have with jam rock. I can take a couple of jams back to back, but don’t keep going for 7, 8 or even more minutes on every song you play!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This album came right after those two…same kind of vibe on this one.
      Live….it depends on what they play. They do a good job of this one but it is longer of course.

      They have songs that are surprisingly radio friendly…like this one…it would have fit radio at that time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “Shakedown Street” definitely grew on me. When that album came out, I thought they were trying to sound trendy and disco. Now I really like that song. “Touch of Grey” was their first (only?) real hit. You could have thought they were a one hit wonder if you didn’t know they had 20 years of history by then. Especially poignant since Jerry had just survived a diabetic coma.


      2. While “Shakedown Street” certainly asounds very different from earlier Dead tunes like “Truckin'”, “Casey Jones” or “Sugar Magnolia”, it’s got a got cool funky groove. The guitar sound reminds me a bit of 10cc’s “Dreadlock Holiday”, another tune I dig!

        Liked by 2 people

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