On This Day in 1972 (June 17), “Stella Blue” was first performed by the Grateful Dead at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles (47 years ago today!) If you’re already a Grateful Dead fan, the song needs no introduction. But for those of you who have never been to a Dead show, after you hear the first notes of this song you just settle down into your chair to enjoy a mellow few minutes and enjoy the tasteful light show!
I look at it as a musical impressionistic work of art. Impressionism is a style or movement in painting originating in France in the 1860s, characterized by a concern with depicting the visual impression of the moment, especially in terms of the shifting effect of light and color. It’s an artistic style that seeks to capture a feeling or experience rather than to achieve accurate depiction. In music it’s a style of composition (associated especially with Debussy) in which clarity of structure and theme is subordinate to harmonic effects.
Robert Hunter’s phrases such as ‘all the years combine, they melt into a dream’, ‘there’s nothing you can hold for very long’, and ’it seems like all this life was just a dream’ are matched with a kind of tonal ambience of Garcia’s major seventh and suspended forth chords and space that seems to me to evoke a mood or atmosphere rather than to directly tell a story. Anyway, I like it!
This is dedicated to my friend Ron from NYU (as well as the Grateful Dead.) Way back in the days before social media, streaming or digital music and even cassette tapes, he would make bootleg recordings of some Dead shows and press them on vinyl somewhere – and then we would try to sell them for a dollar or two to the crowds pouring out from the shows! I don’t remember exactly, but we probably made enough to buy a grilled cheese sandwich or two.
PS Weiss survey results may surprise you! Coming soon!
Also, stay tuned for Paul McCartney’s birthday tomorrow!
Bösendorfer piano sound: for this recording I’m playing a Yamaha Clavinova – which has the same keyboard action as a traditional acoustic piano, but there are no strings. Pressing a key activates (in this case) a sound which was sampled from a Bösendorfer Imperial Concert Grand piano. Try listening to it with a good set of headphones!