In 1970, Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh composed the song Box of Rain for his father who was dying of cancer. He asked band lyricist Robert Hunter to put words to the song so he could sing it to his father before he died. Hunter has said he understood how Lesh wanted to aid and comfort his father with this song, and immediately after hearing the music the lyrics wrote itself "as fast as the pen could pull." Lesh would sing this song to his father in his hospital bed in his final days. Box of Rain is the first song on American Beauty, the band's fifth album, and it was sung by Lesh on the album and in concert. This was the first song that the group released with Lesh on lead vocals. The Grateful Dead first performed this song in an emotional acoustic set at Fillmore East in New York City on September 17th, 1970, and they didn't perform it again until late 1972. The song was played on and off, and eventually retired for 13 years - over 750 shows - until it was revived in 1985 leaving stunned fans in tears. Usually the song was preceded with the crowd chanting "we want Phil." On July 9th, 1995, one month before the death of Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia, the eclectic rock band of 30 years played their unintentional final concert at Chicago's Soldier Field. The band played Box of Rain for their second encore at that show - it was the last song the band ever played.
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