This Grateful Dead original (music by Jerry Garcia, lyrics by Robert Hunter) was covered by Elvis Costello on the 1991 album Deadicated, which benefited Rainforest Action Network and Cultural Survival. Costello's comments in the album liner notes discuss his first Dead concert and opinion of the band:
...when I was 17, Dead records were some of the secret stuff that I loved and my friends hated (then it was on to something else, you know the scene). But I have often gone back to those albums (and others since), and I'm pleased to say I've seen them during three of their five trips to England.
Now I dig them not only for everything people think they are, but also for elements that are sometimes overlooked, such as having written many beautiful ballads.
—Elvis Costello, in the liner notes to Deadicated (Arista Records, 1991)
"Ship of Fools" is one of the ballads referred to by Costello in the last paragraph cited above. It's a slow song, and a thoughtful one, in its way. As with so many other Dead tunes, the words are those of a story, but they don't tell the whole story, instead leaving listeners to guess at meanings, or invent their own. (No, really --- I have no idea what it's about.) The melody's a catchy one, bluesy in flavor, although it's always hard to pigeonhole Dead songs, since the band borrowed from so many different genres and musical influences to create its unique and always evolving style and sound.