Screengrab via Grateful Dead "Bird Song" 6/26/1993
The latest edition of the ongoing “All The Years Live” video series from the Grateful Dead is available now on the band’s YouTube channel. The new archival release comes in the form of a rendition of “Bird Song” from Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington, D.C. on June 26th, 1993. This rendition of the Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter classic features some exploratory work as the Dead stretch the song to just about the 14-minute mark. With help from Bruce Hornsby on accordion, the band is able to split up and go their separate ways for a jam that begins to push the boundaries of the composition, before eventually rolling back for one last triumphant chorus.
Grateful Dead archivist David Lemieux notes in the video’s description:
Grateful Dead first sets were generally reserved for shorter songs, going back to 1970 or so. There were a few very important exceptions to this rule, though, with Playing In The Band being a major jamming vehicle for the Dead 1972-1974, usually as the first set closer. Bird Song was played mostly in the first set 1971-1973, and provided the Dead loads of run to stretch and explore. When it returned to the repertoire in 1980, first acoustically for the Warfield-Radio City shows, and then in November electrically, it would stick around until 1995 as a first set improvisational juggernaut. This typically out-there version shows where the Dead could take off to in their later years.
Watch archival footage of the Grateful Dead performing “Bird Song” at RFK Stadium on June 26th, 1993.