Happy Birthday Ron McKernan: Pigpen Fronting Grateful Dead Playlist


Co-founding Grateful Dead member Ron “Pigpen” McKernan was born on this date in 1945. The Pigpen era spanned the legendary band’s formation in 1965 through his final performance with the Dead on June 17, 1972 at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. Pigpen was only 27 years old when he died on March 8, 1973 following a battle with Crohn’s disease.

“Pigpen was and is now forever one of the Grateful Dead” reads the tombstone at his gravesite at Alta Mesa Memorial Park in Palo Alto, California. McKernan brought a bluesy edge to the Grateful Dead as the group began performing around the Bay Area. Despite his abrasive appearance and demeanor, his friends and band mates found Pigpen to be a kind and generous soul.

This week’s edition of Saturday Stream again presents a Pigpen Era Grateful Dead Spotify Playlist. While the previous Pigpen Dead set was a massive 1000+ track accumulation of every recording officially released by the band between 1966 and 1972, this installment trims that playlist down to songs featuring Pigpen singing lead.

The collection mixes staples of Pigpen’s time in the Dead like “Turn On Your Lovelight,” “Mr. Charlie,” “Hard To Handle,” “Next Time You See Me,” “I’m A King Bee,” “Good Morning Little School Girl,” “Ain’t It Crazy (The Rub)” and others with lesser played rarities like “Pain In My Heart,” “Sick & Tired,” “Empty Heart” and more. Pigpen can be heard leading originals “Alligator,” “Operator,” “Empty Pages” and “Easy Wind” along with a few other classics from the era. Listen below: