A deeply-felt, universally-understood Grateful Dead song, "He's Gone" continues to resonate with listeners worldwide. It is played frequently in the aftermath of loss or as a tender reminder that life is a journey of highs and lows. It has a special place in the band's oeuvre due to its rich symbolism of transience and the ephemerality of human relationships.
The tempo of He's Gone steadily declined through the summer '72 tour as they gradually moved towards a more laid-back sound. They started bringing it to a soft fade-out at the end of the vocal coda, as well. In May, the guitar intro changed to a more melodic and familiar riff and they began to draw out the ending jam a little more (it still ends with a short wah jam before Drums).
By the fall of '72, He's Gone was a shrunken version with less frequent jams. It was a regular part of the Other One suite, although Pigpen was no longer harmonizing in the verses and the "going where the wind don't blow so strange" bridge hadn't yet been introduced. The song continued to be a slow-tempo toe-tapper and they kept using the vocal coda to fade out, but it was beginning to lose its lyrical appeal.
In December 1979, He's Gone sounded much more lively than it had since summer '72. They paired it with Truckin' twice that year and the jams were more intense; however, He's Gone also occasionally segued into a full-fledged Space Jam or Gloria. He's Gone would become a much more common jam topic once Brent Mydland joined the band in January 1980, and it would be used as the opening for some of their longest, most interesting and atypical jams.