Sunrise

Album: Terrapin Station (1977)
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Songfacts®:

  • "Sunrise" was written and sung by the only female member of the Grateful Dead, Donna Jean Godchaux, who was with the band from 1972-1979. The song is about a Native American medicine man named Rolling Thunder, who spent a lot of time with the Dead.

    "'Sunrise' is about sunrise services we attended and what Rolling Thunder would do," Godchaux said on the Songfacts Podcast. "It's very literal actually. Rolling Thunder would conduct a sunrise service, so that's how that came about."
  • Donna Jean Godchaux wrote this song on piano after Jerry Garcia asked her to write a song for the Terrapin Station album. She said it just flowed out of her - music and lyrics - and was one of the easiest songs she ever wrote.
  • The drumming at the end of the song was played by a real medicine man. "We cut it in Los Angeles, and he came and brought the medicine drum, so what you hear on the end is the real deal," Godchaux told Songfacts. "It was like a sanctuary in that studio when he was playing that. It was very heavy."
  • There is a nod to this song on the back cover of the Terrapin Station album, which merges Native American imagery (an eagle feather) with the Grateful Dead bones.

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