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Music / American Beauty

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Let there be songs to fill the air.

"Look out of any window
Any morning, any evening, any day
Maybe the sun is shining
Birds are winging or rain is falling from a heavy sky"

American Beauty is a 1970 album by The Grateful Dead, the sixth in their catalogue. Together with Workingman's Dead (1970) and Anthem of the Sun (1968) its often seen as their best. Therefore Anthem and American Beauty have been featured together in an episode of the documentary series Classic Albums.

The album generated the hit "Truckin'" and the fan favorites "Box of Rain", "Friend of the Devil" and "Sugar Magnolia". In 1997 "Truckin'" has been recognized by the United States Library of Congress as a "national treasure". The album would also prove highly influential on the country rock, Alternative Country, and Americana movements.


Side one

  1. "Box of Rain" (5:18)
  2. "Friend of the Devil" (3:24)
  3. "Sugar Magnolia" (3:19)
  4. "Operator" (2:25)
  5. "Candyman" (6:14)

Side two

  1. "Ripple" (4:09)
  2. "Brokedown Palace" (4:09)
  3. "Till the Morning Comes" (3:08)
  4. "Attics of My Life" (5:12)
  5. "Truckin'" (5:03)


  • Jerry Garcia: vocals, lead guitar, pedal steel, piano
  • Mickey Hart: percussion
  • Bill Kreutzmann: drums
  • Phil Lesh: bass guitar, piano, vocals
  • Ron "Pigpen" McKernan: vocals, harmonica
  • Bob Weir: vocals, guitar
  • Robert Hunter: songwriter
  • Dave Torbert: bass
  • David Nelson: electric guitar
  • David Grisman: mandolin
  • Howard Wales: organ
  • Ned Lagin: piano

Tropin', I'm goin' home

  • American Title: "American Beauty".
  • Break-Up Song: "Brokedown Palace".
  • The Casanova: "Candyman"
    Come all you pretty women with your hair hanging down
    Open up your windows' cause the Candyman's in town
    (...) Pretty lady ain't got no friend till the Candyman come round again
  • Crapsack World: "Truckin'" is about the band's misfortunes on the road, used as a metaphor for getting through the constant changes in life.
  • Country Music and Folk Rock: The album is close to folk rock and country, much like their previous effort Workingman's Dead (1970)
  • Deal with the Devil: "Friend of the Devil", where a man escapes from jail with help from the Devil, but ends up chasing him in the end.
  • Declaration of Protection: "Till The Morning Comes"
    Tell you what I'll do
    I'll watch out for you
    You're my woman now
    Make yourself easy
  • Drugs Are Bad: "Truckin'"
    What in the world ever became of sweet Jane?
    She lost her sparkle, you know she isn't the same
    Livin' on reds, vitamin C, and cocaine,
    All a friend can say is "Ain't it a shame?"
  • Epic Rocking: The 6:14 "Candyman".
  • In Harmony with Nature: "Brokedown Palace"
    Goin' home, goin' home by the waterside I will rest my bones
    Listen to the river sing sweet songs to rock my soul
    Goin' to plant a weeping willow
    On the banks green edge it will grow grow grow
    Sing a lullaby beside the water
    Lovers come and go - the river roll roll roll
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Although the narrator of "Operator" seeks info about his ex, it seems more to be out of concern for her wellbeing than out of any sort of jealousy. He imagines a number of situations she could be involved in, including "working in a house of delight", but then adds, "I don't know where she's going, I don't care where she's been, long as she's been doing it right."
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The title was inspired by a type of rose, which is depicted on the cover.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "American Beauty" does not appear in any of the lyrics.
  • One-Man Song: "Candyman".
  • One-Word Title: "Operator", "Ripple", "Truckin'"
  • Outlaw: "Friend of the Devil" is about a man on the run from the police who is helped to escape by the Devil, but winds up chasing him instead.
  • Parental Love Song: "Box of Rain", dedicated to Phil Lesh's dying father.
  • Polyamory: "Friend Of The Devil"
    Got a wife in Chino, babe, and one in Cherokee
  • The Power of Love:
    • "Sugar Magnolia"
    She's got everything delightful, she's got everything I need,
    Takes the wheel when I'm seeing double, pays my ticket when I speed
    • "Till the Morning Comes"
    You're my woman now, make yourself easy.
  • The Power of Rock:
    • "Brokedown Palace"
    Listen to the river sing sweet songs to rock my soul
    • "Ripple"
    If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
    And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung,
    Would you hear my voice come through the music?
    Would you hold it near as it were your own?
    It's a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken,
    Perhaps they're better left unsung.
    I don't know, don't really care
    Let there be songs to fill the air.
  • The Problem with Pen Island: The word "American Beauty" on the cover can be also read as "American Reality". This seems to have been intentional.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: "Box of Rain" was written by Phil Lesh for his father, who had terminal cancer. The events in "Truckin'" are all situations that actually happened to the band on the road.
  • Road Trip Plot: "Truckin'"
    Truckin', I'm a goin' home, whoa whoa baby, back where I belong
    Back home, sit down and patch my bones, and get back truckin' on
  • Shout-Out: The album title was referenced in the title of American Beauty (1999).
    • The Secret History: Hippies only allow admission to the bunker to those who can recite the second verse of "Sugar Magnolia".
  • Siamese Twin Songs: "Ripple" -> "Brokedown Palace".
  • Time Marches On: "Operator", where the protagonist asks for the operator to help him to the right area code and number. In today's era of cell phones the lyrics tend to be dated.
  • Title-Only Chorus: "Truckin'"
  • Wanderlust Song: "Friend of the Devil", where the protagonist is on the run from the law.

What a long, strange trip it's been....