The song Friend of the Devil, written by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter of the Grateful Dead and John Dawson of the New Riders of the Purple Sage, has captivated fans since its release in 1970. While at first glance the song seems to be a melodic and upbeat folk rock tune, the lyrics reveal a darker narrative that explores themes of escape, temptations, and consequences. The song has been covered by numerous artists, including Counting Crows and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, each of whom bring their own unique interpretation to the track. The popularity of Friend of the Devil can be attributed to a number of factors, such as its catchy melody and relatable themes. The Dead’s dedicated and passionate fan base has also helped the song to become a beloved classic.
Throughout the song, the narrator describes their life on the run, listing all of the opportunities at love they’ve ruined and the important moments that they’ve missed because they were too busy evading capture. Ultimately, the narrator feels like they’ve lost their sanity and are living a chaotic existence.
The narrator also encounters the devil multiple times throughout the song, each time asking him to leave them alone. The devil offers to loan the narrator twenty dollars, which could be seen as a metaphor for temptation and danger, or it may suggest that the narrator is making deals with the dark forces in order to survive.