Touch Of Grey

Lyrics: Robert Hunter
Music: Jerry Garcia

It must be getting early
Clocks are running late
Paint by numbers morning sky
Looks so phony

Dawn is breaking everywhere (note 1)
Light a candle, curse the glare
Draw the curtains, I don't care
'Cause it's alright

I will get by
I will get by
I will get by
I will survive

I see you got your list out (note 5)
Say your piece and get out (note 2)
Yes I got the gist of it
But it's alright

Sorry that you feel that way
The only thing there is to say
Every silver lining's got a
Touch of grey

It's a lesson to me
The Ables and the Bakers and the C's
The A B C's
We all must face
And try to keep a little grace

I know the rent is in arrears
The dog has not been fed in years
It's even worse than it appears
But it's alright

Cows are giving kerosene
The kid can't read at seventeen
The words he knows are all obscene (note 3)
But it's alright

I will get by
I will get by
I will get by
I will survive

It's a lesson to me
The Deltas and the East and the Freeze
The A B C's
We all think of
And try to keep a little love

The shoe is on the hand it fits
There's really nothing much to it
Whistle through your teeth and spit (note 4)
'Cause it's alright

Oh well a touch of grey
Kind of suits you anyway
That was all I had to say
And it's alright

I will get by
I will get by
I will get by
I will survive

We will get by
We will get by
We will get by
We will survive

(1) in an August 1980 performance, Hunter sang this verse as "Light a candle, curse the glare/As for me I couldn't care/ Gonna draw the curtains there/But it's alright
(2) the original lyrics were "Say your piece and piss off" but Hunter said that Jerry wanted him to change "piss off" to "get out" to give it a better chance at airplay (quoted by Bob Clinton in 'The Deadhead's Taping Companion Vol 2'). But it seems Jerry sang the original lyrics anyway on at least some occasions (eg 28 December 1982 and 18 March 1992 - thanks to Matt Carlson and Doug Reddick for these).
(3) in an early, solo, 1981 performance, Robert Hunter sang "His postcards are all obscene."
(4) as with the change from "piss off" to "get off", this line was also toned down from "Whistle through your teeth and shit"
(5) It sounds as if Weir/Mayer sang "I see you've got your fists out" with Dead & Company in 2016.

Hunter described the evolution of the song in his journal for 8 January 2006:

"Flipping through a green hardbound 1980 notebook I come upon a run of pages in which I discover "Touch of Grey" - dozens of verses that gradually fall away until the familiar ones emerge. As I read, I'm not otherwise than the person who wrote it down. It's the blear light of dawn after being up all night. I sit at the kitchen table in a 16th Century house in rural England, turning what I feel into images, awash in that writing trance in which I spent, and spend, so much of my life; a place that doesn't have much relationship to the nominal time stream. If I could slip back physically and change anything, perhaps I'd rip out those pages. No getting the genie back in the bottle."
Even this is bound to pass
Not the first, you're not the last
Fortune smiles then turns away
But it's OK

When it goes from bad to worse
Not the last, you're not the first
Today's tomorrow yesterday
So what's to say?

I will get by
I will get by
I will survive

It's a lesson to me
The Ables, the Bakers and C's
The ABC's of the fast ball curve
Trying not to lose your nerve
In solo performances in the early 1980s, Robert Hunter sometimes sang an additional verse
Modern saviours, saints and seers
Unlikely pack of Paul Reveres
Just keep on smiling through your tears
It's all right
Grateful Dead Recordings
     Date Album
     (studio) Aug 1982 In The Dark (note 6)
     21 Oct 1983 30 Trips Around The Sun
      3 Jul 1984 30 Days Of The Dead (2014) (note 10)
     (studio) Jan 1987 In The Dark (note 7)
     11 Apr 1987 ONXRT: Live From The Archives, Vol 11
      9 May 1987 The Making Of The Touch Of Grey Video (video only)
      3 Jul 1988 30 Trips Around The Sun
      4 Jul 1989 Truckin' Up To Buffalo (DVD & CD soundtrack) (note 12)
     12 Jul 1989 RFK Stadium 1989 Box
     14 Oct 1989 The Music Never Stopped: Music From The Motion Picture
     16 Mar 1990 Spring 1990
     25 Mar 1990 Spring 1990 (The Other One)
      1 Apr 1990 Spring 1990 (The Other One)
     16 Jun 1990 View From The Vault III (video/DVD & CD soundtrack)
      8 Jul 1990 View From The Vault (video/DVD & CD soundtrack)
     20 Sep 1990 Road Trips Number 2, Volume 1
     20 Jun 1991 Download Series Vol 11
      5 Jul 2015 Fare Thee Well (CD and DVD) (note 9)
(Plus live recordings by The Dead, Furthur, Dead & Company, Ratdog, Phil Lesh & Friends etc not listed here. See Grateful Dead Family Discography for a full list.)
Tribute Albums
     Date Album Recorded By
     1996 Fire On The Mountain Vol 1 Reggae Celebrates The Grateful Dead (Mighty Diamonds)
     1996 Long Live The Dead Billy And Terry Smith
     1997 Pickin' On The Grateful Dead David West et al
     1999 Swingin' To The Grateful Dead Steve Marsh et al
     2000 Wake The Dead Danny Carnahan et al
     2000 Whole Lotta Rock Lamajam
     2001 Blues Tribute To The Grateful Dead Various (Richie and the Pocket Rockets)
     2002 Finger Play Kugel
     2003 Ukelele Summit 5 Various (Kawaihae)
     2004 Werewolves Of Atlanta: Halloween 2004 Dark Star Orchestra
     2005 Deadgrass Deadgrass
     2009 Yoga Tribute To Grateful Dead Yoga Pop Ups (note 11)
      4 Aug 2012 Live: San Rafael, CA Yonder Mountain String Band
     2013 Keys Keller Willams
     14 May 2015 Dear Jerry: Celebrating The Music Of Jerry Garcia Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann
     2016 Day Of The Dead The War On Drugs
     2017 Dead Songs Vol 1 Barton Hills Choir
Covers By Other Artists
     Date Album Recorded By
     1998 Put Some Style In It Lounge Brigade
     1998 Super Bos The Binghampton Crosbys
     1999 Rockin' Race John Boy & Billy
     2002 Finger Play Kugel
     ?2012 Karaoke Legends, Vol. 45 Unknown
(6) rehearsal issued as a bonus track in the box set Beyond Description (1973-1990)
(7) also on the compilations The Arista Years, The Very Best Of The Grateful Dead and The Best Of The Grateful Dead.
(8) a live version of "Touch Of Grey" by the Grateful Dead is on the benefit CD "Earth Charter: Unesco CD for Young People." I assume it is more likely to be one of the live recordings above, though I haven't confirmed which.
(9) also on the compilation Best Of Fare Thee Well.
(10) also on 30 Days Of The Dead (2016).
(11) also released as "Lullaby Versions of Grateful Dead"
(12) also on the compilation The Best Of The Grateful Dead Live

Further Information
For an online discussion of the lyrics to this song see the deadsongs.vue conference on The Well.
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography
For information on references in the lyrics see David Dodd's Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics
For online chords and TAB see
For sheet music, see:
          Grateful Dead Anthology Volume 2 (piano arrangement)
          Grateful Dead Authentic Guitar Classics Volume 2 (guitar TAB)
          In The Dark Songbook (piano arrangement)
          Very Best Of The Grateful Dead (guitar TAB)
          Garcia/Hunter Songbook (vocal line and chords/TAB)


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