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"Friend of the Devil" is a song recorded by the Grateful Dead. The music was written by Jerry Garcia and John Dawson and the lyrics are by Robert Hunter. It is the second track of the Dead's 1970 album American Beauty.

"Friend of the Devil" is about an outlaw, on the run from the police. His crime is never explicitly stated. The Devil helps him escape, but winds up chasing him just as the law does; several lines of the song are ambiguous, and could refer to either law enforcement or servants of Satan, such as "I was trailed by twenty hounds", which could refer to either police dogs sniffing his trail, or mythical hellhounds.

The song is acoustic, like most of American Beauty. It is known for the riff lead guitarist Jerry Garcia plays, which is a descending G major scale (G F# E D C B A G). The song is among the most covered songs written by the Grateful Dead; Hunter later stated, "that was the closest we've come to what may be a classic song."

The song was introduced in concert on February 28, 1970 at the Family Dog in San Franciscomarker.Later in the band's history, the song slowed down significantly in live performances. Loggins & Messina, whose version of the song was slowed down, might have inspired The Dead to do the same. In more recent history, Phil Lesh with Phil's band Phil Lesh & Friends do a more up tempo version similar to the original.

During the 1960s, 70s and 80s, many American Christian groups railed against rock bands with perceived Satanic influences. This song was frequently cited as an example, due to its apparent sympathy to an outlaw who makes a deal, literal or not, with the Devil.

Cover Versions

  • Loggins & Messina, whose version of the song was slowed down
  • Bob Dylan and Tom Petty also both cover the song frequently in concert.
  • In 2003, Counting Crows included a slower-tempo cover of the song on their compilation album Films About Ghosts. While reproducing the acoustic riff, the Counting Crows version also adds electric keyboard and guitar instrumentation at about midway through the song.
  • Elvis Costello and Keller Williams have also covered this song in concert.
  • In 2008, the song was used in the introduction to an episode of Adult Swim's Lucy, Daughter of the Devil, sung by The Devil (Lucy's father) and Terry, the Devil's sentient teratoma.
  • A version by Lyle Lovett exists on his Here I Am - The Lyle Lovett Collection compilation and on the Deadicated: A Tribute to the Grateful Dead album. Both were released in 1991.
  • Cleveland, Ohiomarker based Rock trio Hot Ham & Cheese released a punk version of the song in 2008


References

  1. Here I Am: The Lyle Lovett Collection by Lyle Lovett, http://rateyourmusic.com/release/comp/lyle_lovett/here_i_am__the_lyle_lovett_collection/, rateyourmusic.com, 2009
  2. Deadicated: A Tribute to the Grateful Dead, http://www.amazon.com/Deadicated-Tribute-Grateful-Various-Artists/dp/B000002VHS, Amazon, 2009



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