"Playing, like a wave upon the sand"

The Annotated "Playing In The Band"

An installment in The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics.
By David Dodd

"Playing In The Band"
Words by Robert Hunter; music by Bob Weir
Copyright Ice Nine Publishing; used by permission

Some folks trust to reason
Others trust to might
I don't trust to nothing
But I know it come out right

Say it once again now
Oh I hope you understand
When it's done and over
Lord, a man is just a man

Playing in the band
Daybreak on the land

Some folks look for answers
Others look for fights
Some folks up in treetops
Just look to see the sights

I can tell your future
Look what's in your hand
But I can't stop for nothing
I'm just playing in the band

Playing in the band
Daybreak on the land

Standing on a tower
World at my command

You just keep a turning
While I'm playing in the band

If a man among you
Got no sin upon his hand
Let him cast a stone at me
For playing in the band

Playing in the band
Daybreak on the land
Playing in the band
Daybreak Daybreak on the land

"Playing In The Band"

Recorded on There are also two video versions, in The Grateful Dead Movie, and on the "So Far" video.

First performance: February 18, 1971, at the Capitol Center in Port Chester, N.Y. "Playing In The Band" occupied the second spot in the second set, following "Casey Jones" and preceding "Me and Bobby McGee." Other firsts in the show:

In the repertoire ever since.

The tune is also known as "The Main Ten," and is so listed on Hart's Rolling Thunder, because of its ten-beat meter.


The principle of "might makes right" has its origins in the thought of Plato (Republic I.xii) and Seneca (Hercules Furens, 253).

On Rolling Thunder, Weir sings this line as "others trust to sight."

This note from a reader:

From: Joshua.Bernstein@OSAD.state.il.us
Sent: Friday, October 17, 2003 2:13 PM
Subject: Grateful Dead Annotated Lyrics


Perusing the annotated Lyrics for Playing in the Band, I was struck by the verse:

Some folks trust to reason
Others trust to might
I don't trust to nothing
But I know it come out right.

I noticed that your annotation did not mention an obvious (to me) inspiration for "Others trust to might." Psalm 20 is a hymn of faith which addresses "trust to might" in line 8:

20:1 For the Leader. A Psalm of David.
20:2 the Lord answer thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob set thee up on high;
20:3 Send forth thy help from the sanctuary, and support thee out of Zion;
20:4 Receive the memorial of all thy meal-offerings, and accept the fat of thy burnt-sacrifice; Selah
20:5 Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel.
20:6 We will shout for joy in thy victory, and in the name of our God we will set up our standards; the Lord fulfil all thy petitions.
20:7 Now know I that the Lord saveth His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven with the mighty acts of His saving right hand.
20:8 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will make mention of the name of the Lord our God.
20:9 They are bowed down and fallen; but we are risen, and stand upright.
20:10 Save, the Lord; let the King answer us in the day that we call.

Chariots and horses refers to the state of the art military equipment in biblical times. The Psalmist was not impressed by "might," prefering instead to rely on faith in God. Although the portion of Playing in the Band quoted above eschews faith in anything, I can't help but feel that this Psalm may have had some influence on these lyrics. My two cents.

Joshua Bernstein

Just look to see the sights

On Ace, Weir sings: "Just lookin' for their kites."

Standing on a tower, world at my command

A reader writes:
Subject: Dead Lyrics
Date: Mon, 28 Oct 1996 22:07:26 -0700
From: The Isaac Sublett

I've really enjoyed your page since I found it a few months ago.

I just finished listening to Playin' and I found a reference in it that you don't have.

the lines:

Standing on a tower World at my command
refer (as far as I can tell) to Matthew 4:5-9.
The the devil took him (Jesus) to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written:
He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone."
Jesus Answered him, "It is also written: Do not put the Lord your God to the test."

Again the the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."

This is in good keeping with the song's other Biblical references (throwing stones, etc.)

Keep up the good work-


Let him cast a stone at me

A reference to the New Testament passage, John 8, in which Jesus, in his sermon on the Mount of Olives, explicates the principle: "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged." Specifically, this is a reference to verse 7, in which Jesus says to a gathered crowd who have brought him a woman found in adultery: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."

The principle is also elaborated in the version of the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew, Chapter 7, verses 1-5.

This reference is also echoed in "Throwing Stones."

Daybreak, Daybreak on the land

On Ace, Weir sings this line the final time as "Daybreak while I'm playing in the band." He also sings the line "Playing, like a wave upon the sand" on this album.
keywords: @music, @bible
DeadBase code: [PLAY]
First posted: May 29, 1995
Last revised: October 17, 2003