Jack-a-Roe

  • About

  • Lyrics

  • Jerry Garcia Solo Transcription (5/5/82)

  • Discography

Jack-a-Roe

"Jack-a-Roe" is one of many traditional folk tunes that the Grateful Dead adapted and made their own. It tells the story of the daughter of a wealthy London merchant who's in love with "Jack the Sailor". Despite having many worthy suitors, she disguises herself in men's attire so that she can follow him off to war. She's able to trick her way over to where this war is taking place, arriving at the turmoil of a horrific battle. She's able to find her love, and with the help of a doctor, heal his wounds. The song ends with the couple getting married, and the narrator of the song proposes marriage to the listener.

The song can be categorized as a legend historians call "The Main Warrior", and is most likely two or three centuries old and derives from the troubadours of the British Isles. The song's history in North America is equally as vast, and there are versions spanning states with such diverse folk traditions as Missouri, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Virginia.

The Dead first played "Jack-a-Roe" on May 13, 1977 in Chicago, and it's last performance was on July 8, 1995 at the band's penultimate show (also in Chicago). The song was performed 115 times, and almost always in the first set (or part of the 1980 acoustic sets), only once being played in the second set.

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