Grateful Dead

Samson and Delilah

Composed by Traditional

Song Review by

The Grateful Dead turn this Piedmont folk blues into a rhythmic crusade whose roots can be directly traced back to its gospel origins. Bob Weir (guitar/vocals) arranged the song from Rev. Gary Davis’ recollections of the Blind Willie Johnson version dating back circa the 1920s. “Samson And Delilah” was not the first of Davis’ songs to have been adapted by the Dead. They had been performing “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” as a slow and languid psychedelic blues which is in definite contrast to this full-blown raver which highlights the Dead’s tightly wound pulsating rhythms as well as room for Jerry Garcia (guitar) to provide some incendiary fretwork between the verses. Lyrically -- and somewhat by definition -- the words are based upon the biblical account of “Samson And Delilah” as recalled in the 16th chapter of the book of Judges. As with most other interpretations of the song -- which is also known as “If I Had My Way”-- the translation is far from being strictly verbatim. However the slight artistic licence of Weir’s rendition is much in keeping to the purist sense of the true folk music tradition of remoulding and reconstructing a song to fit the performance style of an individual artist. Although the band had been performing it live for over a year, “Samson And Delilah” was first released on Terrapin Station (1977). The undulating rhythm and stop-on-a-dime arrangement made it a instant favourite with Deadheads as well as with the band. The song was never dropped from the Dead’s live repertoire and had the tendency to appear almost anywhere during the span of a typical performance. There are quite a few live versions readily available for interested enthusiasts. Among them are volumes 3, 9, 15, 17, 18, 20 and 21 in the Dick’s Picks series of archival concert recordings as well as on the Dead Set (1981), Terrapin Station, Capital Centre, Landover, MD, 3/15/90 (1997) and the first instalment in the multi-media View From The Vaults project. There are also numerous other recordings from a wide variety of artists including Peter Paul and Mary, Dave Van Ronk and the Staple Singers.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Terrapin Station 1977 Grateful Dead / Rhino 3:27
Dead Set 1981 Grateful Dead/Rhino 5:06
Dick's Picks, Vol. 3 1995 Grateful Dead 7:31
The Arista Years 1996 Grateful Dead/Arista / Arista 3:27
Dick's Picks, Vol. 9: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY 9/16/90 1997 Real Gone Music 8:09
Dick's Picks, Vol. 15: Raceway Park, Englishtown, NJ 9/3/77 1999 Real Gone Music
Dick's Picks Vol. 20: Live at Capital Centre, Landover, MD and Onondaga County War Memorial, Syrcause, NY 2000 Real Gone Music 8:01
A View from the Vault [Video/DVD] 2000 Shout! Factory
View from the Vault 2000 Grateful Dead 7:05
Dick's Picks Vol. 21: Live at Richmond Coliseum, Richmond, VA 2001 Real Gone Music 7:33
Dick's Picks Vol. 27: Live at Oakland Coliseum Arena, Oakland, CA 2002 ADA / Real Gone Music 7:27
Dead Ahead: New York City, October 1980 [Video] 2002 Shout! Factory
Dick's Picks Vol. 29: Fox Theatre, Atlanta, GA, 2003 Grateful Dead / Rhino 8:00
The Closing of Winterland: December 31, 1978 2003 Grateful Dead / Rhino 9:15
Beyond Description (1973-1989) 2004 Grateful Dead / Grateful Dead/Rhino / Rhino 5:06
Dick's Picks, Vol. 33: 10/9 & 10/76 Oakland Coliseum Stadium, Oakland, CA 2004 Razor & Tie / Real Gone Music 7:47
Dick's Picks, Vol. 34: 11/5/77 Community War Memorial, Rochester, NY 2005 Real Gone Music 8:43
Live at the Cow Palace: New Years Eve 1976 2007 Friday Music
To Terrapin: May 28, 1977 Hartford, CT 2009 Rhino 8:05
No Image 2011 Grateful Dead / Rhino 6:39
Dick's Picks, Vol. 29: 5/19/77 Fox Theatre, Atlanta, GA and 5/21/77 Lakeland Civic Center Arena, Lakeland, FL 2012 Razor & Tie / Real Gone Music 7:45
Spring 1990: So Glad You Made It 2012 Grateful Dead / Rhino 6:58
May 1977 2013 Rhino 7:28
Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of Grateful Dead - July 5, 2015 2015 Rhino 8:14
Dick's Picks, Vol. 3: Pembroke Pines, Florida 5/22/77 2015 Real Gone Music 7:31
Red Rocks 7/8/78 2016 Grateful Dead / Rhino 7:44
Candy Man Star
No Image Grateful Dead / Rhino 6:18
No Image Grateful Dead / Rhino 3:27
Grateful Dead Download Series, Vol. 4 Grateful Dead / Rhino 6:44
Left in the Vaults, Vol. 1 Flashback Records
Live Albums Collection Grateful Dead / Rhino 5:07
No Image Grateful Dead / Rhino 6:18
blue highlight denotes editor's pick