I don’t remember when “Unbroken Chain” became my favorite Grateful Dead song, but I think it must have been during my period of renewed grief, which started in 2006 when I started to think once again about writing David’s book, and during which I spent every night drinking, smoking, crying, and listening to songs that reminded me of him on my iPod. I was, to use one of my favorite expressions, a train-wreck.
I guess I love haunting songs, and “Unbroken Chain” certainly fits that description. And there are parts of it that particularly remind of my time with David, and of that time in general. I love the line, “They say, ‘Love your brother,’/but you will catch it when you try,” and the lines that lead up to, “…Unbroken chain/of you and me” (I know now that the chain was, in fact, never broken). And the long instrumental part (what would a Dead song be without a long instrumental part?) always, for some reason, brings to my mind images of a much younger David, on the road (as I almost always tended to imagine him), running between New Mexico, Kansas, Minnesota, Mexico, New York, and wherever else fate or his yearnings took him before he got sick, his arm out the car window, playing with the wind. It may be an overly romantic image, suffused with nostalgia for times, places, and parts of David’s life I was never a part of, but that’s me. The Dead were just kind enough to come up with a soundtrack for it.
Here’s the song: