Recommended Grateful Dead Songs for the Newcomer

I get it guys. I really do. Great music awaits at the center of a tumultuous journey to understand this band. Hope this makes the trip easier.
  1. Casey Jones
    From the album "Workingman's Dead." One of the most well known Dead tunes. It's a great recoding, with a perfect shuffle that chugs somewhere between laid back and raucous. Give this song another listen for the first time. Start at: "Workingman's Dead"
  2. Row Jimmy
    This one will you have you wondering why you haven't heard it before, and why so many of your classmates in high school did such a bad job of representing this band to you. A delightful, reggae-infused tune that will have you making friends with this band right off the bat. Start at: "Wake Of The Flood"
  3. Althea
    One of my favorite tunes. If you find the right live recording it's a gem. Bad versions aren't horrible, but if you find a version with the right little skip in it's step, it's just terrific. Start at: "Grateful Dead Go to Nassau"
  4. Bertha
    "That's why if you please/I'm on my bendin' knees/Bertha, don't you come around here anymore"... This is a quintessential Dead tune, incorporating the best of what they do: upbeat grooves, playful lyrics but with a sneer, and those chord changes that exemplify "feel-good" music. Start at: "Dick's Picks 25"
  5. Sugaree
    One of my favorite songs to play on the guitar. The perfect nexus between R&B and that "major key" happy vibe that the Dead are so loved for. One of the first tunes that grabbed me, thanks in part to the stellar version on "Dick's Picks 29"
  6. Scarlet Begonias
    Okay, this song when played wrong is a hippie train wreck, due in part to the fact that nobody is really quite playing a discernible part... But when the pieces sit together correctly, you'll be bopping like a motherfucker in traffic. Also extremely well represented on Dick's Picks 29 (the entire album is excellent.)
  7. Fire on the Mountain
    In the late seventies Scarlet Begonias and Fire on the Mountain began to morph into one long movement. This may be the best song through which to become introduced to the dead, at least on a harmonic level, since it's only two chords and a pretty deconstructed song, though a really catchy one. Start at: "Dick's Picks 29"
  8. Ramble on Rose
    If there's a song in the Dead catalog that connects seamlessly with the style of another band you already love, it's Ramble on Rose. This tune could have easily been made famous by The Band and sung by Levon Helm. Start at: "Europe '72"
  9. U.S. Blues
    The Dead frequently played quasi-traditional blues, and had several in their stable. This is a great example of their mixing the blues form with really quick-witted lyrics and topping it off with that dusty Californian seventies vibe. Start at: "From The Mars Hotel"
  10. Uncle John's Band
    From the album Workingman's Dead, this song is extremely catchy and accessible. It's a prime example of their Americana style, and it has some uncharacteristically good harmonies. The lyrics are great as well.
    Suggested by   @carolineschwartz
  11. Franklin's Tower
    Suggested by   @johnnyartpants
  12. Jack Straw
    The first GD song I remember hearing (outside of a very decent Jimmy Buffett cover of Uncle John's Band--seriously), this one has everything: a compelling story, Bob and Jerry alternating verses (at least early on), quick-but-sharp leads. A gem.
    Suggested by   @kflinn1
  13. Might as Well
    Never had such a good time in my life before!
    Suggested by   @Jed