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Weekend Songs: Grateful Dead, ‘Sugar Magnolia’

Classic rock is about heavy hooks, power chords and tight harmonies. But it’s also about letting loose and enjoying the good times. And there’s no better time for that than Friday evening, when we pick up our paycheck, punch out of work and enjoy a couple days of much-needed rest and relaxation.

This weekend, we’re pausing to pay tribute to a classic ode to relaxation from one of the all-time greatest feel-good rock bands: ‘Sugar Magnolia’ by the Grateful Dead. Originally recorded for the band’s 1970 ‘American Beauty’ album, it was never officially released as a single, but it picked up a fair amount of FM airplay — and probably more crucially for a band whose live performances have always been more of a focus than its LPs, it quickly became a staple of Dead set lists.

It’s easy to understand both reactions. Weighing in at a slim 3:17, the studio version was perfect for radio, and as anyone who’s ever seen the band play it live can attest, ‘Sugar Magnolia’ is also perfectly well-suited to being stretched out for the sort of jammy, long-form workouts the Dead are known for.

Whether you’re listening to the original ‘Sugar Magnolia’ or one of its many, many concert performances, the song’s sweet, pastoral vibe practically forces the listener to unwind — and lines like “Sweet blossom come on, under the willow / We can have high times if you’ll abide / We can discover the wonders of nature / Rolling in the rushes down by the riverside” are perfect for a lazy Saturday afternoon.

Of course, if you’re reading this at your desk, odds are fairly high that Saturday afternoon feels pretty far away right now. But don’t let that keep you from a few minutes of Grateful indulgence — just scroll up, hit ‘play’ on the video, turn up the volume, and let the weekend start … now.

Next: Get About As Oiled As a Diesel Train

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