Blues For Allah

Album: Blues For Allah (1975)
  • songfacts ®
  • Artistfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • Dead lyricist Robert Hunter wrote the words for this song. In his lyrics collection Box of Rain, he explained, "This lyric is a requiem for King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, a progressive and democratically inclined ruler (and, incidentally, a fan of the Grateful Dead) whose assassination in 1975 shocked us personally. The lyrics were printed in Arabic on the jacket of the Middle Eastern release of the album."

    Faisal was killed by the son of his half-brother, Prince Khalid bin Musaid, on March 25, 1975. No one is exactly sure why the assassination happened, but the common theory is that it was motivated by vengeance. Faisal had been a political moderate who tried to introduce secular reforms into Saudi Arabia. When he ordered the installation of television in the nation in 1966, violent protests broke out. Prince Khalid bin Musaid led one of these riots and attacked a television station. In the ensuing melee, a police officer shot him in the head.

    Hunter took the event as inspiration to contemplate war and conflict in general, and "Blues for Allah" speaks to these things.

    What good is spilling blood? It will not grow a thing
    Taste eternity the swords sing: Blues of Allah In 'sh'Allah

    The song calls for unity through humility, pleading that no one can truly know the answers to the mystery of the universe, so compromise should be pursed rather than conquering.

    And know the truth must still lie somewhere in between
  • The song is part of a suite with "Sand Castles & Glass Camels" and "Unusual Occurrences in the Desert." The latter, along with "Blues for Allah," are credited to Hunter and Jerry Garcia. "Sand Castles & Glass Camels" is credited to the whole band.
  • Some lyrics in this song explained:

    "In'sh'Allah" means "if Allah wills it." It's a term frequently used by Muslims.

    "The thousand stories have come round to one again" refers to the Arabian Nights.

    "Birds of paradise" are famous for their bright, elaborate plumage. They represent 42 species in 15 genera.
  • Allah is the Arabic word for "God." Hunter used this word twice in his lyrics. Once here and once in "What's Become of the Baby" on Aoxomoxoa. In "Blues for Allah," he used it in reference to the nation of Saudi Arabia.
  • The Dead performed the song live five times, all in 1975.
Please sign in or register to post comments.


Be the first to comment...

90210 to Buffy to Glee: How Songs Transformed TVSong Writing

Shows like Dawson's Creek, Grey's Anatomy and Buffy the Vampire Slayer changed the way songs were heard on TV, and produced some hits in the process.

Early Days of MTVFact or Fiction

If you can recall the days when MTV played videos, you know that there are lots of stories to tell. See if you can spot the real ones.

Keith Reid of Procol HarumSongwriter Interviews

As Procol Harum's lyricist, Keith wrote the words to "A Whiter Shade Of Pale." We delve into that song and find out how you can form a band when you don't sing or play an instrument.

RamonesFact or Fiction

A band so baffling, even their names were contrived. Check your score in the Ramones version of Fact or Fiction.

Director Paul Rachman on "Hunger Strike," "Man in the Box," KissSong Writing

After cutting his teeth on hardcore punk videos, Paul defined the grunge look with his work on "Hunger Strike" and "Man in the Box."

Jello BiafraSongwriter Interviews

The former Dead Kennedys frontman on the past, present and future of the band, what music makes us "pliant and stupid," and what he learned from Alice Cooper.