Casey Jones (1970)

The Grateful Dead

Workingman's Dead
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From the opening snort up the nose, “Casey Jones” spoons up a funky, goofy variation of the legendary tale of heroic train engineer Casey Jones. (He actually existed and worked for the Illinois Central Railroad, a line that was later immortalized in Steve Goodman’s tune “City Of New Orleans” and a folky smash hit for Arlo Guthrie.)

Who knew old Casey was a coke fiend? And that he had to be told to “watch your speed”? That’s a lyric with a nice double meaning because the real Casey may or may not have been going too fast when he rammed his Cannonball Express into a stalled train one foggy night in Mississippi.

As is often their inclination, Jerry Garcia and lyricist Robert Hunter casually toss Grateful Dead songs into the cosmic spin-cycle before rinsing in the day-glo fabric softener and returning to the “plot line.” “Casey Jones” is no different.

Trouble with you is
The trouble with me
Got two good eyes
but we still don’t see…

Drivin’ that train
High on cocaine
Casey Jones you better
Watch your speed
Trouble ahead
Trouble behind
And you know that notion
ust crossed my mind