• June 22, 2011
    http://www.dead.net/features/blairs-golden-road-blog/blair%E2%80%99s-golden-road-blog-%E2%80%94-celebrating-robert-hunters-70th-birthday
    Blair’s Golden Road Blog — Celebrating Robert Hunter's 70th Birthday!

    OK, we made a big deal about Phil turning 70 last year, and Bob Dylan got an endless (but very interesting) Rolling Stone cover story for turning 70 a few weeks ago. But now it’s time to give some serious props to Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, whose 70th birthday is June 23.

    It’s hard to know where to begin in honoring this man who has had more of an impact on me than any other songwriter or poet; in fact, no one else even comes close. His words have been part of the fabric of my life for more than 40 years, and I continue to draw new inspiration from them daily in myriad ways, consciously and unconsciously. You know how it goes: “Once in a while you get shown the light….” When my nearly grown children were babies, I sang them “Brokedown Palace” and “Bird Song” (complete with “doo-doo’d” middle guitar jam!) to rock them to sleep. At a memorial service for my close friend Jon a few weeks ago, my daughter and his teenage children sang “Uncle John’s Band” in front of 200 people, and the event was laced together with recordings of “Attics of My Life,” “The Wheel,” “Brokedown Palace” and a sing-along “Ripple.” These are the songs of my people.

    Back in February 1988, I interviewed Hunter for The Golden Road, and I articulated a few thoughts about his writing in the introduction to the interview that I’d like to share here, as they are as apt now as they were 23 years ago:

    At this point, Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter probably needs no introduction to most of you. Chances are his work is an indelible part of your consciousness. He literally (pun only semi-intended) writes words to live by: How many among our Dead Head ranks can say we have not been profoundly affected by this gentle sage? Who has not been uplifted by his stirring optimism, empathized with his characters’ soul-searching, confusion and wanderlust? If the Grateful Dead’s music is the soundtrack of our lives, then Hunter’s words are the touchstones. They are points of reference along the way that seem to explain to us what is happening, where we’ve been, and even help us chart a course for where we might go next.

    My personal experience with Hunter’s lyrics has been that he has created a vast sea of swirling images, ideas and connections of which I have a vague surface understanding. Then, as if I’ve gotten a hearty whack of the Zen master’s stick (because I asked another stupid question), I get flashes of true understanding when I least expect it, and the lyric that once seemed dense and inaccessible suddenly becomes crystal clear. These bits and pieces then start falling together—sort of like a slow-motion film of an explosion, only in reverse, where the shards and fragments move from chaos to cohesion. There are Hunter lyrics I’ve heard, memorized and sung along to thousands of times that are still completely baffling to me, but in general, living with these songs has been a process of seeing meaning constantly, if slowly, unfolding before me. Surely this is art’s greatest function.

    It’s easy to take Hunter’s work for granted, because at this point is feels so familiar, so comfortable, so emotionally right, that it’s taken on some of the mystical glow of Ancient Wisdom—as if it’s always been there to discover and we’ve just stumbled upon it. But take a moment and think about the incredible range of this man’s work: The nearly Taoist simplicity of “Ripple” and “Attics of My Life”; the fractured psychedelia of “China Cat Sunflower” and “The Eleven”; the playful metaphors of “Deal” and “Run for the Roses”; the colorful portraits of working stiffs in “Cumberland Blues” and “Easy Wind”; the dreamy disconnectedness of “Row Jimmy”; mythological journeys through the psyche by way of “Terrapin Station” and “Franklin’s Tower”; straightforward declarations of love like “To Lay Me Down” and “If I Had the World to Give”; the cartoonish whimsy of “Tennessee Jed” and “When Push Comes to Shove”; the world-weary existentialism of “Stella Blue” and “Black Muddy River”; and the steadfast stoicism of “Playing in the Band” and “The Wheel.” There are hundreds of songs in the Hunter canon, most of them wildly different from each other, but all of them shoot points of light into humanity’s mirror to give us fleeting glances of our inner selves.

    That was written years before the last bursts of writing he did with Jerry, which produced such beautiful and evocative pieces as “Standing on the Moon,” “So Many Roads,” “Lazy River Road” and “Days Between.” And since Jerry’s been gone, Hunter has continued to write poetic, provocative, gritty, playful and heavy lyrics for many fine artists—that will be the subject of next week’s blog.

    We also owe Hunter an eternal debt for shepherding Deadnet Central in its early days and allowing it to become the fascinating/illuminating/maddening clearing house of Dead Head opinions/rants/nonsense that it has been since Jerry’s passing. His online “journal” in the late ’90s (sort of a proto-blog) helped many of us through the grieving process, and I will always be grateful for the clarity and openness of his writing during that time.

    In the weeks since I first determined I’d be celebrating Hunter’s 70th with a blog post (or two), I’ve thought a lot about the songs he’s written that have most affected me through the years. So I made a list of 10 favorites (How audacious! How dumb!) that get me every time (not listed—about 50 others that I love as much in other ways!) Here they are, in no particular order:

    “Terrapin Station,” “Comes a Time,” “Uncle John’ Band,” “Mission in the Rain” “The Wheel,” “Ripple,” “Attics of My Life,” “Crazy Fingers,” “Stella Blue,” “Standing on the Moon.”

    Yikes, I’m already having regrets about omissions! "Box of Rain," damn it! But without question, each of those holds a special place in my heart and my personal cosmos.

    I also came up with this list of five I think may be underrated by most Dead Heads: “What’s Become of the Baby” (at least the lyrics!), “High Time,” “Valerie,” “Rubin and Cherise,” “Lazy River Road.”

    Stop me before I list again!

    Now I’d love to hear what you have to say about Hunter’s lyrics. Which songs speak to you most? Any cool experiences with the lyrics you’d like to relay— “that time I was in Nepal and I heard ‘Eyes of the World’ coming out of mud hut in this tiny village…”?

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OK, we made a big deal about Phil turning 70 last year, and Bob Dylan got an endless (but very interesting) Rolling Stone cover story for turning 70 a few weeks ago. But now it’s time to give some serious props to Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, whose 70th birthday is June 23.

It’s hard to know where to begin in honoring this man who has had more of an impact on me than any other songwriter or poet; in fact, no one else even comes close. His words have been part of the fabric of my life for more than 40 years, and I continue to draw new inspiration from them daily in myriad ways, consciously and unconsciously. You know how it goes: “Once in a while you get shown the light….” When my nearly grown children were babies, I sang them “Brokedown Palace” and “Bird Song” (complete with “doo-doo’d” middle guitar jam!) to rock them to sleep. At a memorial service for my close friend Jon a few weeks ago, my daughter and his teenage children sang “Uncle John’s Band” in front of 200 people, and the event was laced together with recordings of “Attics of My Life,” “The Wheel,” “Brokedown Palace” and a sing-along “Ripple.” These are the songs of my people.

Back in February 1988, I interviewed Hunter for The Golden Road, and I articulated a few thoughts about his writing in the introduction to the interview that I’d like to share here, as they are as apt now as they were 23 years ago:

At this point, Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter probably needs no introduction to most of you. Chances are his work is an indelible part of your consciousness. He literally (pun only semi-intended) writes words to live by: How many among our Dead Head ranks can say we have not been profoundly affected by this gentle sage? Who has not been uplifted by his stirring optimism, empathized with his characters’ soul-searching, confusion and wanderlust? If the Grateful Dead’s music is the soundtrack of our lives, then Hunter’s words are the touchstones. They are points of reference along the way that seem to explain to us what is happening, where we’ve been, and even help us chart a course for where we might go next.

My personal experience with Hunter’s lyrics has been that he has created a vast sea of swirling images, ideas and connections of which I have a vague surface understanding. Then, as if I’ve gotten a hearty whack of the Zen master’s stick (because I asked another stupid question), I get flashes of true understanding when I least expect it, and the lyric that once seemed dense and inaccessible suddenly becomes crystal clear. These bits and pieces then start falling together—sort of like a slow-motion film of an explosion, only in reverse, where the shards and fragments move from chaos to cohesion. There are Hunter lyrics I’ve heard, memorized and sung along to thousands of times that are still completely baffling to me, but in general, living with these songs has been a process of seeing meaning constantly, if slowly, unfolding before me. Surely this is art’s greatest function.

It’s easy to take Hunter’s work for granted, because at this point is feels so familiar, so comfortable, so emotionally right, that it’s taken on some of the mystical glow of Ancient Wisdom—as if it’s always been there to discover and we’ve just stumbled upon it. But take a moment and think about the incredible range of this man’s work: The nearly Taoist simplicity of “Ripple” and “Attics of My Life”; the fractured psychedelia of “China Cat Sunflower” and “The Eleven”; the playful metaphors of “Deal” and “Run for the Roses”; the colorful portraits of working stiffs in “Cumberland Blues” and “Easy Wind”; the dreamy disconnectedness of “Row Jimmy”; mythological journeys through the psyche by way of “Terrapin Station” and “Franklin’s Tower”; straightforward declarations of love like “To Lay Me Down” and “If I Had the World to Give”; the cartoonish whimsy of “Tennessee Jed” and “When Push Comes to Shove”; the world-weary existentialism of “Stella Blue” and “Black Muddy River”; and the steadfast stoicism of “Playing in the Band” and “The Wheel.” There are hundreds of songs in the Hunter canon, most of them wildly different from each other, but all of them shoot points of light into humanity’s mirror to give us fleeting glances of our inner selves.

That was written years before the last bursts of writing he did with Jerry, which produced such beautiful and evocative pieces as “Standing on the Moon,” “So Many Roads,” “Lazy River Road” and “Days Between.” And since Jerry’s been gone, Hunter has continued to write poetic, provocative, gritty, playful and heavy lyrics for many fine artists—that will be the subject of next week’s blog.

We also owe Hunter an eternal debt for shepherding Deadnet Central in its early days and allowing it to become the fascinating/illuminating/maddening clearing house of Dead Head opinions/rants/nonsense that it has been since Jerry’s passing. His online “journal” in the late ’90s (sort of a proto-blog) helped many of us through the grieving process, and I will always be grateful for the clarity and openness of his writing during that time.

In the weeks since I first determined I’d be celebrating Hunter’s 70th with a blog post (or two), I’ve thought a lot about the songs he’s written that have most affected me through the years. So I made a list of 10 favorites (How audacious! How dumb!) that get me every time (not listed—about 50 others that I love as much in other ways!) Here they are, in no particular order:

“Terrapin Station,” “Comes a Time,” “Uncle John’ Band,” “Mission in the Rain” “The Wheel,” “Ripple,” “Attics of My Life,” “Crazy Fingers,” “Stella Blue,” “Standing on the Moon.”

Yikes, I’m already having regrets about omissions! "Box of Rain," damn it! But without question, each of those holds a special place in my heart and my personal cosmos.

I also came up with this list of five I think may be underrated by most Dead Heads: “What’s Become of the Baby” (at least the lyrics!), “High Time,” “Valerie,” “Rubin and Cherise,” “Lazy River Road.”

Stop me before I list again!

Now I’d love to hear what you have to say about Hunter’s lyrics. Which songs speak to you most? Any cool experiences with the lyrics you’d like to relay— “that time I was in Nepal and I heard ‘Eyes of the World’ coming out of mud hut in this tiny village…”?

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My father’s generation had real war stories to tell. Even though my dad never saw combat during World War II, he still served in the Navy on a supply ship in the Pacific, met all sorts of colorful characters from all over the U.S., some of whom became friends for life, and traveled to the Orient and Hawaii — not bad for a kid from Mt. Airy, North Carolina. Garcia used to talk about how Dead Heads had their own version of “war stories” — grand tales of derring-do, close shaves, epic mishaps, and incredible feats of stupidity out on the road following the Grateful Dead.

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If we're making lists, I'd say that there really is only one list with one song title that I could honestly include to the exclusion of all the dozens of others which I love (almost) as much ... Scarlet Begonias. You mentioned "In the strangest of places" line, Blair, and that just pops out all the time for me. It tells me that you can get enlightenment, fulfillment and just sheer bliss from just about anywhere and often on places you'd never expect! But really, there are two lines which also sum up for me the essence of Robert Hunter and the Grateful Dead: "The sky was yellow and the sun was blue" - different, "weird" ways of seeing and experiencing. "Strangers stopping strangers just to shake their hand .. everybody's playing in the Heart of Gold Band" - togetherness, peace, empathy, everyone in the band! I could pick out lines in many songs, but Scarlet Begonias is one I always come back to. As always, the Grateful Dead found a way of picking a melody to fit the lyrics (although it wasn't always that way round!) which was lilting, joyous, dreamy, perfectly suited to the theme and the mood. Happy birthday Robert ... and thanks Blair for sharing your thoughts.
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I can't make a list. I love all of them. I am continually puzzling over some of them like "Row Jimmy Row" and trying to parse the sense of meaning in them. My ideas about them change as I get older. It's like Joyce's Ulysses you gotta go back and reread it every 10 years or so. Like you Blair these songs have been an inspiration and a soundtrack to life for me and my family. I named my son Hunter. Jerry wrote the perfect musical accompaniment to them as well. As Deadheads we are especially lucky to have such a tremendous body of work to enjoy, experience , laugh or grin over, dance about, puzzle over, inspire over and appreciate. "now lets go run and see"
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In the songwriting world, it's that Hunter/Garcia are not members of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. I know that they were nominated a couple of years ago, didn't make the cut. But with inductees like Jon Bon Jovi, Phil Collins (but no Peter Gabriel? Please!), Barry Manilow, and Diane Warren, it's hard to justify omitting such actual WORTHY songwriters like Robert and Jerry. See http://www.songwritershalloffame.org/exhibits/era for a full listing and choose your own "Huh? Such-and-such is there and Hunter/Garcia are not?" nominees. Happy birthday, Mr. Hunter. You've been inspiring me for most of my life, and that inspiration ain't never gonna end until I do...
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Hey Man, I have completely enjoyed the 7 Walkers project with Hunter lyrics and music by Papa Mali(Malcomb Welbourne-Louisiana native)These recordings featuring Billy K.on percussion,clearly state Hunter's affinity for the city of New Orleans and all that the culture there can inspire.Always liked Rubin and Cherise with its Carnival flavor,what a story! As for Dead related material, I'm with you blairj on "Eyes" and "UJB" particularly.The Hunter/Garcia collaboration on Workingman's as well as Garcia's first solo recordings,to me, are the pinnacle works from this duo.Such an amazing songbook for sure! I suppose one should not leave out Terrapin Station. Okay,I see now how this can go on and on and on...Blairj thanks for providing this space shwack
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Precious.All too personal. All good things. All good times. All of my friends. All the years combined. Thats all Folks!!! Happy Birthday Mr. Hunter. (eep-opp-ork-ah-ah!)
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not sure i want to explain the feeling of his wordsan impressionistic deja vu time bends and expands, captured in a moment and disappears i feel them. i know i FEEL them. ambiguity is only right. anything more would see them retract and die. and i don't want that. capture is captivity. and no one wants that. thank you Robert C. Hunter. for what, i'm still trying to work out. but thank you. "Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread it's roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write." - Rainer Maria Rilke.
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This one is always magical for me. Some 25 odd years ago while living in CA. (Montara) my 1st trip into the big city of SF got a little lost on the BART. Ended up coming up in the Mision District and low and behold it was raining. Was told sometime later that it wasn't the rainy season............."Come again...?".......
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As for me, simply stated, HUNTER IS THE LAST OF THE BEATS. May source continue to bless U Robert!!! keep on Truckin
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My favorite Robert Hunter memory is the first time I saw him perform live. It was March 1984 at Adams nightclub in Washington DC. Adams was a small club and it seemed we were seated nearly at Robert's feet. I found the performance just thrilling and rate it as one of my all time favorite concert memories. I saw him several times after that in larger venues and it was never quite the same. I also collected a dozen or so of his concert tapes, and none seemed to capture the magic of that night (one exception- Kutztown, PA?-see below).A few memories about that night. I remember we were sitting in line out in front waiting for the doors to open, when along comes Robert, guitar case in hand. He had to rap on the door to get in! We all recognized him, of course. One of us said "they probably think you're just another deadhead". His first words on stage were "Is this the place?" I remember he also remarked he had spent some time walking around Georgetown, and had been recently listening to Bach's Musical Offering - "the most Bach for your Bach dollar!" He performed mostly songs from "Jack of Roses" and the upcoming "Amagamalin Street"- and of course some chestnuts The Eleven , St Stephen, etc. For a while I had a horrible amateur tape that was pretty unlistenable, but verified my memory of a truly inspired performance. The Amagamalin Street material was wonderful, performed in a pure folk like vein- totally unlike the album, which I found disappointing by comparison -( too electric and too many musicians) My picks for favorite, underrated Hunter: (1) Eagle Mall Suite. (I used to have a complete recording, Kutztown PA? 80-82, I think?)- my favorite live Hunter... (2) Keys to the Rain (3)Pieces of Eight A Hearty thanks for Everything Mr. Hunter!
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must be getting early, clocks are running late oh well a touch of grey, kind of suits you anyway RH, you are the man. RU surprised H/G aren't in the songwriters HoF? H/G haven't sold 20 million copies of pop candy like bon jovi. They've merely made the world a better place and many people happy. "Shot through the heart, and you're to blame. U give luv a bad name." duh....... now go listen to 11/2/79.
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Of everyone in the Dead scene's storied history, I'd most like to see Hunter write a memior. I've enjoyed most of the other books written by "insiders", but it seems Hunter has perhaps the most unique perspective of them all, having been friends with Jerry from the early days when they lived on the edge, surviving on the margins to create music. His creativity hasn't waned at all. The new songs he wrote with Jim Lauderdale (CD just out), the songs he's written for 7 Walkers and Furthur are testament to that. And his last collaborations with Jerry towards the end of the Dead were example that the creativity between them lasted until the end. Happy 70th Hunter, and thanks for a whole canon of songs that have stood the test of time and continue to beguile, amaze, amuse and entertain.
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Happy Birthday, Robert Hunter! Although I love each and every Hunter song, the one that stands out for me is "Ripple" because it helped me get through the death of my Dad back in 2000. There is a road, no simple highway Between the dawn and the dark of night And if you go, no one may follow That path is for your steps alone Ripple in still water When there is no pebble tossed Nor wind to blow
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"Once in awhile you get shown the light,in the strangest of places if you look at it right" Happy 70th Birthday ! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Holy S#%*! It’s the COMPLETE Europe ’72 Box! On 72 Discs! ♪♫♥♫~♥☼ღ♥♪♫♪♫♥ The Music Never Stops ! ♥♫♪♫♪♥ღ☼♥~♫♥♫♪ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ " There is Nothing like a Grateful Dead Concert ! "
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That would be a helluva memoir, especially since Hunter has kept journals at different times (including that fascinating early '60s pre-Dead period) and also seems to have a pretty good memory. I seem to recall him telling me a number of years ago that he didn't feel like he could write a memoir because he'd want to be honest and forthright in it but he didn't want to possibly hurt (or violate the privacy of) friends who were alive--ever the gentlemen! I hope not misrepresenting what he said; and perhaps he's changed his mind... I'm for ALL the memoirs to come out!

BTW, someone mentioned 'Keys to the the Rain" above--that was definitely my favorite track on Tales of the Great Rum Runners when it came out... I recall what a big deal it was that HUNTER HIMSELF had an album out! Then when he actually started turning up in public... I think I first saw him playing with Rodney Albin and a couple of others (Comfort, perhaps?) at some place on Market Street in SF... or was it that place on Haight St.? Can picture it but not where it was... Anyway, that was exciting, too...

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what you said, Blair. Not much I feel the need to add to this, except that when I first read this in the editorial queue yesterday and got to your top 10 I a)agreed substantially with your choices and b)wondered at the omission of Scarlet Begonias, which I've thought of as one of your faves for as long as I've known you. And hey, first post... DUDE, WHAT ABOUT SCARLET BEGONIAS??? Happy birthday, Hunter, and thanks for more than I'll ever be able to tell.
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Time is a stripper, doing it just for youooooo !!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you for everything you have shared with us !! I cannot help but to borrow from your poems everyday. Keep of the great work, I am really enjoying the variety of ways your words are getting out !!! Have a wonderful day and much health in your future ; and maybe a small Midwest tour ??????? and now........ May the four winds blow you safely home !!!! Trips
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I would love to hear those stories ...!!! As many volumes as Robert would care to write.
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My signature line is often graced with song lyrics or Jerry quotes - and these words from the Wheel are a perpetual favorite among them. I only wish I could use them as a tag line for my small business - they say it all! Becca ...bound to cover just a little more ground...
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without love in a dream it will never come true...<3 Happiest of Birthday's to you Robert
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We exchanged greetings at The Golden Bear nightclub in Huntington Beach, CA many (many many!) years ago. Congratulations to you on 70 years on the planet! Stay Well!
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I think I made this post years ago, but... Robert Hunter's blog in the years following Garcia's death was important to me, I felt like a real friend on the inside was reaching out to help us stay informed and look ahead, not to the past. I was traveling beyond the clutches of TV and radio when Garcia died, and so for a guy who was very devoted (5-15 shows/year '77-'95), this itself was initially frustrating, or so I thought. When I checked back in to our media-driven world, I wasn't so sorry to see the hype-circus that I had missed, but I was damned pleased and proud to see overwhelming realization that what made the Dead super special was the quality of the songs. Ultimately, for me, real personal closure on my Deadhead life came years later, sitting at Hunter's feet and hearing him play HIS OWN FABULOUS MATERIAL at Town Hall, and getting totally off on Phil's band (with Haynes and Herring) in New Haven. Robert Hunter is a rock, a true dark star.
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mermaids on porpoises draw up the dawn paradise waits on the crest of a wave her angels in flame like a child she is pure she is not to blame crippled but free I was blind all the time I was learning to see time to dig out Aoxomoxoa and Blues for Allah.
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Happy Birthday Mr. Hunter!Thank you so very much for all of the enlightenment you have allowed me. Nothing left to do but SMILE SMILE SMILE! ArtistAJL
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I can't make a list, I have no stories to tell, but I can say that reading this brings tears to my eyes as I think about all the times I exchanged meaningful glances with various friends as we danced to Scarlet Begonias and Jerry sang "once in a while you can get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right," and during The Wheel when I would ALWAYS get chills during the second, more emphatic line BOUND TO COVER JUST A LITTLE MORE GROUND. I can also say that as a young woman who had only vaguely heard of the Grateful Dead back in the early 70s, I was always intrigued by Box of Rain and Scarlet when I heard them on KSAN, because the lyrics seemed so intriguing and so different from other the other music of the day. At that time I had no idea that my world would be rocked by these and so many other songs just a few years later. Oh, I am also remembering my first Ecstasy experience at the Greek in 1985, and after the show I was hanging out with my friend John, who recited Terrapin Station to me in its entirety. It was the first time I had really heard the song clearly and I was fascinated by the complexity of the song and the story it tells.
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watch me space it watch me rollwatch me space yer face and shake my bones to the music play'n now Hey You Crank that grateful dead Crank that grateful dead you know I crank it every day
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(> <) ^ VVV
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I had my "at the foot of the genius" moment at Duffy's in Minneapolis in what I believe was 1982. ('83?) That night I had a chance to see Hunter at that bar, and many of my friends opted for a Talking Heads show in an arena. It didn't hurt that a northern Minnesota band called Cats Under the Stars was opening the Hunter show--we'd become friends that year from shows at St. Cloud State University. I was up at the front for the Cats, and just stayed there when Hunter took the stage. I was never more than three feet away from him during his set. He played a lot of songs from the "Jack O'Roses" LP, an English import which no one else in my circle of friends had a copy of. It felt so personal--and gave me that illusion of complete ease and approachability (a feeling only matched when I met Vince Welnick and Peter Albin).I imagine Hunter at work in an old-fashioned house, leaded glass windows, lace curtains and a Tiffany oil lamp. His songs come from a place of Americana which is universal, but always seated in the discovery of the uncharted. I think of him as the writer who reflects the American spirit, tying his epic ideas into literature steeped in the seafarers and the imagery of a rough and tumble game of chance. As a performer, it's the equivalent of the songs embodied--coming out in a natural, flowing fashion. Even in the parthenon of Dylan, Neil Young and Johnny Cash, Hunter stands out and perhaps outshines them. Happy 70th Mr. Hunter!! Too many great words in his canon--but here are a few to chew on: "Storyteller makes no choice Soon you will not hear his voice His job is to shed light And not to master." I never did see the Talking Heads live, either...
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Leavin texas, fourth day of july,Sun so hot, the clouds so low, the eagles filled the sky. Catch the detroit lightnin out of sante fe, The great northern out of cheyenne, from sea to shining sea. To me this is Americana at its best. The only thing was my father used to work for Great Northern and he told me that it only ran north - south. Me and my buddies used to have contests to see who could guess the opening song. I always hoped for jack Straw, because it set the night. One of the best versions I ever heard was at the 15th Anniversary show in Folsom Field in Boulder. I once seen Hunter, the Riders and JGB at the old Commack Arena on Long Island. Hunter opened, then the Riders and then Jerry. At about midnight, Jerry took a break and they started all over agin. What a show.
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Happy Birthday! I doubt you'll read all these comments, but I hope you do. You've had such a huge and lasting impact on so many people. I was lucky enough to attend one of your book readings at Black Oak books (in Berkeley) back in the early 90s (Box of Rain was newly out in hardcover) and I can remember just about every single moment of it. I still have that signed copy on my bookshelf for quick reference. My wife and I named our son Hunter, largely in your honor. In college I spent a lot of time on stories, poetry and song. I learned about the power of myths and shared narrative by studying Joseph Campbell and Huston Smith, but I didn't really internalize understand how powerful shared lyric narrative was was until I took Dan Langton's class (at SFSU) who taught us poetry he'd learned from native cultures he'd been lucky enough to live with. What I heard in those poems were stories that resonate with our intrinsic knowledge of the universe, and they echoed the beautiful songs you wrote. These are the songs that rattle through my head each morning, that come back to me like long lost friends, and that score moments of joy and sorrow. They are sacred to me in every way. I can't thank you enough for what you've done for my life, for the positive impact you've had through these songs. Would I hold it near, as it were my own? You bet! Happy Birthday! Christopher Lull Berkeley, Ca.
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11 years 6 months
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Like Blair I have to say that Robert Hunter is the song writer that inspired and influenced me the most. His lyrics mean so much to me, they are so heart felt. Some provide comfort in times of trouble, and others the precious gift of laughter, or just a smile. I 've been listening every day for 39 years now, and they have enriched my life. I met Mr. Hunter briefly at My Father's Place on Long Island in 1978, he was playing with Comfort. I just sort of patted him on the back and thanked him for all the great songs. I hope you have a great day Bob, and again, thank you. Michael
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7 years 10 months
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Why am I just figuring out on my 60th birthday that I share a birthday with the great Robert Hunter, who I have idolized since high school? I can't think of anyone I would rather share a birthday with. Happy Birthday to Robert (and to me). Finman 6/23/51
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7 years 5 months
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Robert Hunter, you inspired and inspirational master of word and feeling, you live in my head, and those of so many heads, and your influence never stops lifting spirits. Thank you for sharing your life's work, thank you for your beautiful talent and soul, thank you for the soundtrack to our lives. May you continue to enjoy life for many, many more years. Also, thanks to Blair Jackson for helping us all stay tuned. Happy summer, all! Hope to see you boogieing in the open air some time soon.
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Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Robbie Robertson, Bruce Cockburn, and a handful of others... They're all wonderful, gifted, poignant. Still, I can't think of anyone I have been affected by more than Robert Hunter. I've been listening and absorbing your thoughts and feelings since 1969 or 70. From a simple line like, "what I want to know is, are you kind?", to a sad observation like, "You told me goodbye; how was I to know you didn't mean goodbye, you meant please don't let me go?", to a breathtaking ballad like, "Attics of my Life". And on and on and on.... I can't imagine my life without these words and their jewel-like musical settings. I am so much richer for having heard. So, Happy Birthday, and Thanks for everything. Bill Canonico
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I am just so grateful that in '69/'70 I was imprinted with the ethos promoted in Hunter's lyrics. I have tried to live my life in that light, and raise my kids with those values. Thanks, Bob. You've helped raise the conciousness of many, many souls.
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Uncle Robert - you bear an uncanny resemblance to my mother's side of the family. Please,do deliver us your memoirs - I and we would return to them again and again. My daughters would be able to learn a lot from them. I'm listening to 6/23/74 and, when ya think about it, your hand was invloved in all but a very few of these tunes. Cool thing just happened - when I opened up DeadBase to make sure, I opened it to that page and then again because I thought I had seen that it mentioned you were 33. Yep. " Steal Your Jazz "
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11 years 3 months
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There are a lot of Hunter lyrics that touch me deeply, and it's often the ones that I have the least idea what they mean. That is, a particular line may seem rather nonsensical, but it evokes something in our common consciousness - perhaps it's a reference to Shakespeare or scripture or American history or almost forgotten folk and gospel songs - and I don't know why it evokes what it evokes because I only catch the reference on a subliminal level, if at all. But the important thing is not what the lyric "means" or what it refers to, as fun as it is to tease all of that out. The important thing is how it makes you feel. And Hunter, like Dylan, is a master at writing words with deep emotional content which may or may not make "sense" in a logical way. Happy birthday, Robert! And thank you for enhancing my life! Steve Premo -- Santa Cruz, California "If there's ever an answer, it's more love" - Tim O'Brien
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'bound to cover just a little more ground ... I coached X-country at the school where I teach and the school was turning 75. We created T-shirts that on their backs sported the slogan, "75 years so far ... 'bound to cover just a little more ground". "Tis a good line! " Steal Your Jazz "
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Eagle Mall. There's just nothing to equal it. 70? I was sorta hoping for another tour, so I might see him perform again but sheet -- at 70, I wouldn't want to be on tour, living out of hotel rooms. But if he did, I'd be there -- and trying to coax him into doing "Eagle Mall" as a duet ("Look -- I even brought a guitar & a lyric sheet! All you have to do is sing the lead!") "It's always a nice day for a blessing"
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to find so many Eagle Mall fans here... Brick by brick!
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48 years 11 months
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Robert, I hope you read all these comments, your spiritual guidance has been a beacon to us through the years, 'His job is to shed light, and not to master.' So many different thoughts. You share your birthday with my mother, 85 today. I have learnt to play many of the songs you wrote with Jerry, and learning the intricate spirals and ellipses of your words has been as much fun as Jer's masterful chord sequences. I allude to numerous fragments in a book I have written and am currently trying to get published, 'Waking The Monkey' http://cosmicclaire.blogspot.com/2011/06/waking-monkey.html I hope you don't mind, there is so much wisdom in your words. I can't decide between Ripple and Stella Blue... both lucid gems. About Stella ~ I have long thought this to be a reference to Heartbreak Hotel, perhaps Elvis's greatest song. Those references to a hotel and every 'lonely street', the C7 chord is even right for that... A coincidence? I think you are too well versed in song to have done this by accident... Finally ~ Jack O'Roses ~ A masterpiece and I am blessed to have a copy, love the cover, love the words, love the performance, all those bits which are different from the Dead versions, the new songs, 'Money Tree' marvellous! Side two saw me through a catastrophic meltdown that I was going through at the time when I first heard it, an inner journey of mystical and gnostic proportions.... and the final lines could be about the journey we have all had with the Good Old Grateful Dead... 'To give it its due, it's where I met you, and you were my reason to stay, around, in a Prodigal Town'. Thanks Bob...
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7 years 6 months
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Happy Birthday and thank you for a real good time! From the "Heads" at Mauka Woodwerks, Makers of Eco wood toys & artistic products.
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7 years 9 months
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Robert, I'm sitting here wondering how can I give back to you a little of what you have shared with us all for so long. I've had your wonderful words in my head for 5 decades, and those words will no doubt survive both of us. I get sad thinking of those who are no longer with us and I know you do too, and that life is full of pain as well as joy. I am telling you that when those moments come when you feel the acuteness of loss, that there is also so very much love that people wish to send you. Perhaps that helps a little ... I hope so, my brother ... and a little is not bad. there is a Buddhist saying, that creating compassion is like planting a tree, and the fruit is what comes back to you. Look at all the fruit Robert! Dov

The Band

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    _jeff
    7 years 5 months ago
    cool picture...so many wild
    cool picture...so many wild lyrics
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    highgreenchilly
    7 years 5 months ago
    Annotated Lyrics
    I also need to give a shout out to this fine work. I love this book. I think another thing I like about Hunter's lyrics is the history lessons/nods to the past I get from thinking about them. What pop/rock songs now can actually make you think like that? None that I know of...
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    highgreenchilly
    7 years 5 months ago
    Very Underrated Songwriter
    I think my favorite thing about Hunter's lyrics is that he often leaves the lyrics open to interpretation. Like in Terrapin, "you decide if he was wise" and "his job is to shed light". Thanks, RH for shedding light for all these years.(I would have liked to have seen the GD have a few more years to play The Days Between. I think this song was/could have been a monster rivaling Morning Dew for late 2nd set Jerry!)