Fifty years ago today in 1970, the Grateful Dead released their American Beauty studio album. Along with the prior release of Workingman’s Dead four months prior, the 10-song American Beauty would firmly establish the general sound of the Grateful Dead as they left their baby years behind and charged into the 1970s with an impressive batch of fantastic new music.
Since its release on November 1st, 1970, American Beauty remains a fan-favorite album from the band, which, until 1970, wasn’t exactly known for their abilities to get into a studio setting and deliver radio-friendly singles. The album was co-produced by the band alongside Steve Barncard, marking the last time the Dead would use outside help on a studio album until 1977’s Terrapin Station.
From start to finish, American Beauty still weaves a musical tapestry of classic American rock and roll with influences stemming from Americana and folk roots, with some added amplification. The lyrical contributions from Robert Hunter showcase his genius throughout the album with his and Jerry Garcia‘s collaborative songwriting efforts on “Ripple”, “Friend of the Devil”, and “Brokedown Palace”. Bassist Phil Lesh also contributed to a number of songs including his emotional ballad “Box of Rain” and the communal “Truckin'”. Bob Weir‘s major songwriting contribution to the album is also highlighted on one of the band’s most beloved hits in “Sugar Magnolia”.
Watch Robert Hunter, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, David Grisman, manager Rock Scully, and more break down the songwriting process of various songs from American Beauty below.
Classic Albums – The Story Behind “Truckin'”
Classic Albums – The Story Behind “Ripple”
Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Rock Scully Discuss American Beauty
Classic Albums – The Story Behind “Box of Rain”
Classic Albums – The Story Behind “Sugar Magnolia”