"Wharf Rat" is my all time favorite Grateful Dead song. Give me 3 hours and I'll tell you in excruciating detail exactly WHY it's my favorite Grateful Dead song. Heavy, pretty, always thrusting forward with power and drive, with that beautiful hopeful bridge and the final two verses with both resignation and hope.
No one has ever done it as well as Jerry, until now. Ryan Adams and his band performs the song brilliantly, sings it brilliantly and treats it with the sort of respect I think it deserves. Phil Lesh sits in on this version here, recorded just five days ago. It's an audience recording, but the sound is nice. Pay attention to how the song STARTS, the slow driving buildup, just sensational. That's probably in large part due to Phil's driving bass.
Ryan gets the song, a remarkable version of the song. Go and listen.
Wharf Rat (Garcia/Hunter)
Old man down, way down down, down by the docks of the city.
Blind and dirty, asked me for a dime, a dime for a cup of coffee.
I got no dime but I got some time to hear his story.
My name is August West, and I love my Pearly Baker best more than my wine.
More than my wine - more than my maker, though he's no friend of mine.
Everyone said, I'd come to no good, I knew I would Pearly, believe them.
Half of my life, I spent doin' time for some other fucker's crime,
The other half found me stumbling 'round drunk on Burgundy wine.
But I'll get back on my feet again someday,
The good Lord willin', if He says I may.
I know that the life i'm livin's no good,
I'll get a new start, live the life I should.
I'll get up and fly away, I'll get up and fly away, fly away.
Pearly's been true, true to me, true to my dyin' day he said,
I said to him, I said to him, "I'm sure she's been."
I said to him, "I'm sure she's been true to you."
Got up and wandered, wandered downtown, nowhere to go but just hang around.
I've got a girl, named Bonnie Lee, I know that girl's been true to me.
I know she's been, I'm sure she's been true to me.