One of the early Grateful Dead's most beloved songs, Jerry Garcia's "Ruben and Cherise" has been a staple of the band's live set since the days of Cats Under The Stars. It's a melancholy tune that ranks among the Dead's best slow jams, and it's also an excellent example of how to convey deep sadness without sounding overbearing or naive.
The song is an interesting riff on the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, in which Orpheus journeys to the underworld to rescue his love, Eurydice. Set in a carnival, the song tells a modern version of this tale, involving Rubin, a mandolin player who falls in love with Cherise but fears that she will turn away from him.
It's a story that shows how love can overcome obstacles and come to be despite fear, doubt, or even death. It's also a great example of how the power of love can be contagious, and it's something that can inspire us to keep going no matter what challenges we face.
Garcia's guitar, which he often filtered in such a way that it was like liquid gold, runs throughout the song with unmistakable rhythm and intensity. This song also has a lot of psychedelic influence, which is another reason that it's been a staple of the Dead's live sets for decades.
The song's lyrics are by Robert Hunter and were originally penned during Garcia's early sessions with the New Riders of the Purple Sage. In his book A Box of Rain: Lyrics 1965-1993, Hunter wrote that he "wanted to capture the magic of a carnival."