Bobby is thought of as the Grateful Dead who forgot the words; he should more rightly be known as the Grateful Dead who also forgot the words. My contention is that Garcia pooched the lyrics just as much, if not more, as Bobby did. They played Truckin’ over 500 times, and I cannot believe that Bobby fumbled more than 200 of them, whereas Garcia sang Crazy Fingers right exactly once. Additionally, even if he got the words to Franklin’s right–and that is a big “if”–neither he nor anyone in the room could possibly predict what order the verses would be presented in that evening.
(In Garcia’s defense, it doesn’t much matter which order the verses of Franklin’s are sung in. You have to start with “Another time’s forgotten space,” but after that, it’s up for grabs. You can’t sing the lyrics of, say, Stagger Lee out of order because then the revenge would be taken before the inciting incident; that would violate narrative causality, so your brain won’t let you sing it that way.)
After a certain point, the usual vocal flubs fail to arouse the dedicated Enthusiast, and a more powerful source must be found: try 10/20/89 from The Spectrum in Philly, with a priceless performance from Garcia on Scarlet Begonias: he just gives up and starts mumbling “…the more it can take…” into his chest until it’s time for him to solo again. If you don’t have time for the whole show, then just watch the S>F, which–lyrical misadventures notwithstanding–is outstanding.
Make time for this one, though: good and gooey all the way from soup to nuts.
Not you, Soup.
Plus one of only two versions of California Earthquake, which is such a good song that the Dead couldn’t ruin it, even though they tried.