"He's Gone" was written by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, and first debuted during the Grateful Dead's 1972 European tour. Of the 22 shows they played on that tour, half of them featured this new composition.
The song originally referenced Mickey Hart's father, Lenny Hart - the band's one time manager that absconded with their money. The incident also caused Mickey to leave the band for a while. After Pigpen's death, the song took on a whole other meaning, and was often played in tribute to the passing of someone close to the band.
The form and feel of the song also changed over the years. The tempo would often fluctuate, and there are quite brisk versions out there, as well as very languid versions. As far as form goes, when the song was first performed on 4/17/72, the vocal bridge was left out. Instead, the guitar solo was extended over the chorus chords as well. The band played it this way 2 more times (4/24/72 and 4/26/72), before changing it for good. Starting on 4/29/72, the guitar solo was only played over the verse chords, and then immediately went into the vocal bridge.
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