Like the Grateful Dead

The musical Hair put hippies on the map, as most people did not know what a hippie was till this Broadway show became a hit.  Galt MacDermot composed the score for this musical which premiered in October of 1967 just after the summer of love and the lyrics were written by James Rado and Gerome Ragni.  The song ‘Hair’ was a major hit for the Cowsills charting #2 on the U.S, Billboard Hot 100 and it reached #1 on U.S. Cash Box Top 100 in 1969.  One of the main themes of the musical is the surge of popularity of long hair, particularly amongst young men.

The Cowsills got their start in 1964 with brothers Bill and Bob, in their mid-teens, and their two younger brothers, bassist Barry and drummer John.  After recording some singles for Johnny Nash’s Joda Records and for Phillips, without much success, the band went on to record ‘The Rain, The Park and Other Things’, which was produced and co-written by Artie Kornfeld.  They added their mother, Barbara, into the group to sing vocals.  Their next album, We Can Fly, included another older brother, Paul, and their younger sister, Susan.  TV comedy legend Carl Reiner approached them to perform the song ‘Hair’ for his upcoming comedy special, because he thought it would be funny to see a squeaky-clean family act singing a hippie song.

In December of 1965, the Warlocks changed their name to the Grateful Dead, because they found out that there were two other bands using that name, one being a group who would become the Velvet Underground and the other group went on to become ZZ Top.  Their promoter Bill Graham, told them that their new name gave him the creeps.  The Grateful Dead struggled in their early days and the group all lived in the same house, but they were never so poor that they couldn’t afford a haircut, but what I find funny is that there biggest hit ‘Touch of Grey’ is about getting older, and when that happens to most people, their hair starts turning grey.  I don’t think that the Grateful Dead ever complained about being mocked in this song, as I am sure that they appreciated the notoriety that it brought them.  I think that the Grateful Dead my have been offended by Don Henley’s song ‘Boys of Summer’, where he insinuated that a deadhead sticker didn’t belong on a Cadillac.  Another song about hair that I always liked is the 1970 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young tune ‘Almost Cut My Hair’ from their Déjà Vu album.


She asks me why
I’m just a hairy guy
I’m hairy noon and night
Hair that’s a fright
I’m hairy high and low
Don’t ask me why, don’t know
It’s not for lack of bread
Like the Grateful Dead

[Verse 1]
Gimme head with hair
Long beautiful hair
Shining, gleaming
Streaming, flaxen, waxen
Give me down to there hair
Shoulder length or longer
Here baby, there mama
Everywhere daddy daddy

Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, oh
Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair

[Verse 2]
Let it fly in the breeze
And get caught in the trees
Give a home to the fleas in my hair
A home for fleas
A hive for the buzzin’ bees
A nest for birds, there ain’t no words
For the beauty, the splendor, the wonder of my…

Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, oh
Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair

I want it long, straight, curly, fuzzy
Snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty
Oily, greasy, fleecy, shining
Gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen
Knotted, polka-dotted
Twisted, beaded, braided
Powdered, flowered, and confettied
Bangled, tangled, spangled, and spaghettied!

Oh say can you see
My eyes, if you can
Then my hair’s too short
Down to here
Down to there
Down to there
Down to where
It stops by itself

[Verse 3]
They’ll be ga ga at the go-go
When they see me in my toga
My toga made of blond
Brilliantined, biblical hair
My hair like Jesus wore it
Hallelujah I adore it
Hallelujah Mary loved her son
Why don’t my mother love me?

Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, oh
Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, oh
Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair

Written for Song Lyric Sunday where the prompt is Musical/Opera.

32 thoughts on “Like the Grateful Dead

  1. Brilliant – ‘recently’ saw Hair in an Amdram in a school near us. Have to say it wasn’t quite as good as these two clips. 🤣

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  2. What a classic, Jim! I read earlier you were going to write about Hair! and I was excited to read your post. I love both versions, but The Cowsills version is the one I remember most. I remember all the fuss about the Broadway show and the very controversial nude scene. This is one I wish I could have seen on stage (and not just because of the nude scene. 😂😂😂)

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  3. The Cowsills…I worked with a guy in the 80s that grew up in the sixties. He told me about taking LSD and other exploits…one thing I remember is that Janis Joplin appeared in Nashville on the same night that the Cowsills did…he picked Joplin and was happy about that.

    I didn’t know the other Warlocks were ZZ Top and The Velvet Underground.

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