“Truckin’“ is a song by the Grateful Dead….which first appeared on their 1970 album American Beauty…. and was recognized by the United States Library of Congress in 1997 as a national treasure. Written by band members Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, and lyricist Robert Hunter…..as“Truckin'” molds classic Grateful Dead rhythms and instrumentation. The lyrics refer to a drug raid of the band’s hotel lodgings in New Orleans during a concert tour earlier in 1970…..“Busted, down on Bourbon Street…..Set up, like a bowling pin….Knocked down, it gets to wearing thin…..They just won’t let you be”.
The song’s climactic refrain, “What a long, strange trip it’s been” has achieved widespread cultural use in the years since the song’s release. “Truckin'” is associated with the blues and other early 20th-century forms of folk music. “Truckin'” was considered a “catchy shuffle” by the band members….as Garcia commented that “the early stuff we wrote that we tried to set to music was stiff because it wasn’t really meant to be sung … the result of [lyricist Robert Hunter getting into our touring world], the better he could write … and the better we could create music around it.”
The communal, shared-group-experience feel of the song is brought home by the participation of all four of the group’s chief songwriters (Garcia, Weir, Lesh, and Hunter) since….as seen in Phil Lesh’s words, “we took our experiences on the road and made it poetry,”….both lyrically and musically….and he goes on to say that “the last chorus defines the band itself.”