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Dead of the Day: March 14, 1981

Hartford Civic Center
Hartford, Connecticut

For our Dead of the Day we go back to 1981 once again, this time to the Hartford Civic Center. We were all set to go with the Camp Randall show from this date in 1971, but one listen to this Sugaree changed our minds. Jerry delivers the lyrics as if the person to whom they are directed is darting out – or perhaps just about to be dragged out - the door. Behind the words, the band plays at a furious pace and the jams reach a blistering intensity. From that tune onwards – and really with the Stranger opener too – the first set just fires with occasionally truly epic results like the intensely beautiful Peggy-O and the set-closing China> Rider. The second set rocks an Alabama Getaway opener and builds from there. The real magic in that set, however, is post-Space as they come out with an Other One that, while not monstrous, is strong and solid with some interesting riffs and mini-jams packed into its short five minutes or so. The Stella that comes next is a stunner, which heads right into an incredibly fast-paced, dance-your-socks off, jammed to the max closing to the set with Miracle> Bertha> Good Lovin’. It is amazing that anyone – in the band or on the floor – had energy left for the expected One More Saturday Night encore that finishes off the evening.

The Stella Blue here is, as we have said, magnificent. In the transition into it out of The Other One, Jerry plays about twenty seconds of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, which is one of Bach’s most well-known movements. The original German verses express a deep intimacy with Jesus while the more familiar English text is more about the power that God grants to those who believe. It is interesting to ponder Jerry’s intention in referencing the song here. If Jerry is using it as a prelude to Stella, it might be a sort of ironic or resigned statement at the melancholy end of the sad and unfulfilled life that Stella speaks of. If, on the other hand, Jerry is actually playing Joy of Man’s Desiring as the final flourish to The Other One, perhaps he is hinting at the sacredness of the counterculture, Pranksters, or Cassady. Of course, Jerry might just have thought that a little Bach turn was the perfect thing at that moment musically with no additional meaning intended. The only other times that I know of Jerry playing the Bach jam before Stella is another night in 1981: October 19th in Barcelona. Jerry did return to Joy of Man’s Desiring at least three other times, twice in 1991 (9/21 and 9/24 at the Boston Garden) and once in 1993 (3/18). On each of these occasions, it comes out of Space and before The Other One, Foolish Heart, and Corrina, respectively. Steve Kimock has literally quoted the English version of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring before and after versions of Stella.

Other March 14th Shows and Recordings:

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