This Grateful Dead tune, ‘If I Had the World to Give’ was written by Jerome J. Garcia and Robert C. Hunter. It was first released on their 1978 album Shakedown Street, but it was only performed three times in concert. Shakedown Street was the tenth studio album by the Grateful Dead, and this was the final album featuring Keith and Donna Jean Godchaux. This sentimental love song was atypical for their style and according to Hunter, Jerry and him decided to write an obscure surprisingly emotional romantic song, on a lark just for the heck of it. They were feeling sensitive because someone said “Oh you write songs about guys for guys.” They tried to write something that would sound good in an old ‘50s cocktail lounge, but they ended up with a song that is difficult to sing and has large scale tempo changes in it, so it never fit in their rotation.
Many people want to give the world to their soulmate when they find one and this song celebrates a lover’s acceptance of their partner, flaws, and all. This song talks about singing a song, a lullaby or a serenade to someone that you love. Many Deadheads consider this Grateful Dead rarity suitable to be played at a wedding when two lovers are vowing to be with one another forever. This song is about being able to express unconditional love and the Grateful Dead achieved what they set out to do with this song.
If I had the world to give, I’d give it to you
Long as you live, would you let it fall, or hold it all in your arms?
If I had a song to sing, I’d sing it to you
As long as you live, lullaby or maybe a plain serenade
Wouldn’t you laugh, dance, and cry or be afraid at the change you made
I may not have the world to give to you
But maybe I have a tune or two
Only if you let me be your world
Could I ever give this world to you
But I will give what love I have to give,
I will give what love I have to give,
I will give what love I have to give, long as I live.
If I had a star to give, I’d give it to you
Long as you live, would you have the time
To watch it shine, watch it shine
Or ask for the moon and heaven too? I’d give it to you.
Well maybe I’ve got no star to spare, or anything fine or even rare,
Only if you let me be your world, could I ever give this world to you.
Could I ever give this world to you.
Written for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie MM Music challenge The Breakup Song.