Donna Jean wrote and sang the Grateful Dead song ‘From The Heart Of Me’ which appeared on their tenth studio album Shakedown Street, that was released November 15, 1978 on Arista Records. The album came just over a year after previous studio album Terrapin Station. It was the final album for Keith and Donna Jean Godchaux, who left the band a few months after its release. Donna Jean Thatcher Godchaux-MacKay (born August 22, 1947) is an American singer, best known for having been a member of the Grateful Dead from 1972 until 1979. Before Donna Jean joined the Grateful Dead, she was a studio singer, who was always using headphones and because she was in a controlled environment, she never sang off-key, but a lot of Deadheads complained that she had a squeaky voice on some of the songs she sang, however I always liked her voice.
Donna Jean Thatcher was only 17 in 1965 when she went to Norala Studios to cut her first demo ‘I’m Out of Touch’ and this was before the Warlocks ever got into a studio, The Warlocks recorded a six-song demo [a cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘Early Morning Rain’, ‘I Know You Rider’, ‘Mindbender (Confusion’s Prince)’, ‘The Only Time Is Now’, ‘Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks)’ and ‘Can’t Come Down’] at Golden State, on November 3, 1965, using the name The Emergency Crew since they discovered that there was at least one other group in the country using the Warlocks name. Donna Jean Thatcher was 18 when she was on a #1 single, Percy Sledge’s ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’ on May 28, 1966, the day before the Dead went into Buena Vista Studios in the Haight to record their very first songs on Scorpio Records which included ‘Don’t Ease Me In’ backed by ‘Stealin’’.
Donna Thatcher was an in-demand background singer in Memphis and Muscle Shoals in the mid- to late Sixties, although her name rarely appeared in album credits at the time, as very few 60s pop and soul records included detailed credits of the backing musician. Godchaux’s voice can be heard on a slew of hits cut during that time, including, R.B. Greaves’ ‘Take a Letter, Maria’, Elvis Presley’s ‘Suspicious Minds’, and Neil Diamond’s ‘Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show’. She also recorded with Joe Tex, Boz Scaggs, Dionne Warwick and Ben E. King, among others. Donna Jean was a fifteen-year-old cheerleader at Sheffield High when she got her first recording session which was with Ray Stevens, right after he did ‘Ahab The Arab’.
Donna Jean also wrote the lyrics and music for the song ‘Rain’ which was recorded by the Jerry Garcia Band but was never performed live. She collaborated with Jerry Garcia, Keith Godchaux, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, and Bob Weir on the music for ‘Sand Castles And Glass Camels’ which is on the Blues For Allah album. The Grateful Dead played ‘From The Heart Of Me’ 26 times in concert, but only one recording exists of this song by them. What I make out of these lyrics is a plea to be loved and held making her feel safe and warm, in her lover’s arms, as all she has is the heart of him.
Horses slide down off the mountain
Sunlight turning red
Falls on the earth and it spreads
Even the families lower their head
As they ride
Age old faces of the mountains
I wonder if they’re looking at me
Their monumental eyes I can feel
And the glow in the twilight
The dawn of hope
Now I’m reaching out to you
Anything I can do
To be safe and warm
In your arms
All I have is the heart of you
I’d meet you anywhere in the country
Or anywhere on the sea
All over the world it could be
I would follow you
With the heart of me
Love calls echo in the valley
Dream come true tonight
Remembering you hold me tight
In tomorrow morning’s light
I will find you
When I awoke the stars were out
And shining, shining for you and me
All I ever want to be
Safe and warm
In your arms
All I have from the heart of me
Written for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie MM Music Challenge #171 ‘Delta Dawn’.