• June 6, 2013
    http://www.dead.net/features/greatest-stories-ever-told/greatest-stories-ever-told-brown-eyed-women
    Greatest Stories Ever Told - "Brown Eyed Women"

    By David Dodd

    Here’s the plan—each week, I will blog about a different song, focusing, usually, on the lyrics, but also on some other aspects of the song, including its overall impact—a truly subjective thing. Therefore, the best part, I would hope, would not be anything in particular that I might have to say, but rather, the conversation that may happen via the comments over the course of time—and since all the posts will stay up, you can feel free to weigh in any time on any of the songs! With Grateful Dead lyrics, there’s always a new and different take on what they bring up for each listener, it seems. (I’ll consider requests for particular songs—just private message me!)

    “Brown Eyed Women”

    Continuing the theme from last week of songs from the never-recorded post-American Beauty studio album, how about if we talk about “Brown-Eyed Women”?

    I went to Terrapin Crossroads not too long ago with a whole bunch of friends, mostly librarians, to compete in the Trivia Night contest, up against Phil and his team, and about five other teams. We came in third, and actually beat Phil’s team, which was pretty good, I thought. The only Grateful Dead-related trivia was a fill-in-the-blank lyrics question: “Delilah Jones was the mother of twins, _____ times over, and the rest were sins…” I am happy to say our team got that one right.

    “Brown-Eyed Women,” a Garcia-Hunter song, was first played on August 23, 1971 at The Auditorium Theater in Chicago, about a month before the release of the Grateful Dead double live album, aka Skull and Roses, among other monikers. (Hey, this is a family blog!) It was last played by the band on July 6, 1995 at the Riverport Amphitheatre in Maryland Heights, Missouri, which made them miss playing it in Chicago by two days—that would have been an interesting symmetry. And it appeared on the Europe ’72 album, along with the most of the rest of the batch of new songs. It was incorrectly titled “Brown-Eyed Woman” on the album, a mistake which took awhile to rectify. It was played in concert 347 times.

    Like “Jack Straw,” “Brown-Eyed Women” is set largely in the era of the Great Depression. It tells the story of a family living in a tumbledown shack in mythical Bigfoot County, somewhere back in the hills, it seems, where the family works the land and the father, Jack Jones, makes bootleg whisky. Jack was a ladies man in his youth, but those days are gone. It is a fairly straightforward tale of scraping by in hard times, where the mother, Delilah Jones, bears eight boys (no girls are mentioned, but an early version, on August 24, 1971 - the second performance of the song - mentions 13 children all told), of which four belong to two sets of twins. This is a couple whose attraction to each other is strong, clearly, and this is a woman who has done more than her share of childbearing and rearing. And when she dies, in the snowstorm that caves in the roof of the family home, Jack Jones is devastated - never the same again.

    There is something quietly powerful about the bridge that relates this tragedy, with the culminating line: “and the old man never was the same again.” It’s a feeling that resonates with any of us who have lost a loved one, and especially a life partner. Or with any of us who have seen a parent lose a partner, as I did when my mom died, and indeed, my old man never was the same again—he seemed broken by the loss, and I believe he welcomed his own death when it came. Perhaps this is too much a personal story, but it comes to mind when I think about this song: when my dad met with his pastor after my mom died, he asked how it worked, the going to heaven / resurrection thing. Would Mom be immediately in heaven, looking down, and waiting for Dad’s arrival, or would they both be resurrected together with all of the dead when the Resurrection happened? In other words, his only theological concern was—when will I see Suzy again? And is she in heaven now, or do we both arrive simultaneously later?

    I think it is the fact that Jack was never the same again after losing Delilah that makes us most able to like him, to step into his shoes for a moment, and to be able because of that empathy or sympathy to understand something about the life Jack Jones led, making moonshine to make it through the Depression - or to get through his own personal depression following the loss of Delilah.

    The lines in the song that place it squarely in chronological time are the references to the onset of Prohibition - “1920 when he stepped to the bar” - and to the Wall Street crash of late 1929 - “1930 when the Wall caved in.” (Which always makes me think of “Greatest Story Ever Told,” with the line: “You can’t close the door when the wall’s caved in.”) Prohibition was repealed in 1933, but the art of backwoods whisky making was well-established by then, and surely continues to this day.

    There are many other Jacks, and one other Delilah (along with a Delia, which seems close) in the Grateful Dead song repertoire. I love this about Grateful Dead songs—all the names of all the characters. But Jack comes up repeatedly. Someday there should be a little essay just about all those Jacks, from Jack Straw to the Jack who is asked not to dominate the rap, to Jack of Jack and Jill, to Wolfman Jack, to Jack the Ripper, to Jack-a-Roe. More than four of a kind in a hand of jacks, for sure.

    Another story, which again, given the all-ages nature of this blog, I must not relate in full, has to do with an occasion featuring a bottle of grenadine and one certain brown-eyed woman….

    Over to you all: family stories from the Great Depression (or from today’s parallel Great Recession)? Coping with the loss of a partner? Making it through hard times by hook or by crook? Women with brown eyes? Looking forward to your stories and reflections.

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By David Dodd

Here’s the plan—each week, I will blog about a different song, focusing, usually, on the lyrics, but also on some other aspects of the song, including its overall impact—a truly subjective thing. Therefore, the best part, I would hope, would not be anything in particular that I might have to say, but rather, the conversation that may happen via the comments over the course of time—and since all the posts will stay up, you can feel free to weigh in any time on any of the songs! With Grateful Dead lyrics, there’s always a new and different take on what they bring up for each listener, it seems. (I’ll consider requests for particular songs—just private message me!)

“Brown Eyed Women”

Continuing the theme from last week of songs from the never-recorded post-American Beauty studio album, how about if we talk about “Brown-Eyed Women”?

I went to Terrapin Crossroads not too long ago with a whole bunch of friends, mostly librarians, to compete in the Trivia Night contest, up against Phil and his team, and about five other teams. We came in third, and actually beat Phil’s team, which was pretty good, I thought. The only Grateful Dead-related trivia was a fill-in-the-blank lyrics question: “Delilah Jones was the mother of twins, _____ times over, and the rest were sins…” I am happy to say our team got that one right.

“Brown-Eyed Women,” a Garcia-Hunter song, was first played on August 23, 1971 at The Auditorium Theater in Chicago, about a month before the release of the Grateful Dead double live album, aka Skull and Roses, among other monikers. (Hey, this is a family blog!) It was last played by the band on July 6, 1995 at the Riverport Amphitheatre in Maryland Heights, Missouri, which made them miss playing it in Chicago by two days—that would have been an interesting symmetry. And it appeared on the Europe ’72 album, along with the most of the rest of the batch of new songs. It was incorrectly titled “Brown-Eyed Woman” on the album, a mistake which took awhile to rectify. It was played in concert 347 times.

Like “Jack Straw,” “Brown-Eyed Women” is set largely in the era of the Great Depression. It tells the story of a family living in a tumbledown shack in mythical Bigfoot County, somewhere back in the hills, it seems, where the family works the land and the father, Jack Jones, makes bootleg whisky. Jack was a ladies man in his youth, but those days are gone. It is a fairly straightforward tale of scraping by in hard times, where the mother, Delilah Jones, bears eight boys (no girls are mentioned, but an early version, on August 24, 1971 - the second performance of the song - mentions 13 children all told), of which four belong to two sets of twins. This is a couple whose attraction to each other is strong, clearly, and this is a woman who has done more than her share of childbearing and rearing. And when she dies, in the snowstorm that caves in the roof of the family home, Jack Jones is devastated - never the same again.

There is something quietly powerful about the bridge that relates this tragedy, with the culminating line: “and the old man never was the same again.” It’s a feeling that resonates with any of us who have lost a loved one, and especially a life partner. Or with any of us who have seen a parent lose a partner, as I did when my mom died, and indeed, my old man never was the same again—he seemed broken by the loss, and I believe he welcomed his own death when it came. Perhaps this is too much a personal story, but it comes to mind when I think about this song: when my dad met with his pastor after my mom died, he asked how it worked, the going to heaven / resurrection thing. Would Mom be immediately in heaven, looking down, and waiting for Dad’s arrival, or would they both be resurrected together with all of the dead when the Resurrection happened? In other words, his only theological concern was—when will I see Suzy again? And is she in heaven now, or do we both arrive simultaneously later?

I think it is the fact that Jack was never the same again after losing Delilah that makes us most able to like him, to step into his shoes for a moment, and to be able because of that empathy or sympathy to understand something about the life Jack Jones led, making moonshine to make it through the Depression - or to get through his own personal depression following the loss of Delilah.

The lines in the song that place it squarely in chronological time are the references to the onset of Prohibition - “1920 when he stepped to the bar” - and to the Wall Street crash of late 1929 - “1930 when the Wall caved in.” (Which always makes me think of “Greatest Story Ever Told,” with the line: “You can’t close the door when the wall’s caved in.”) Prohibition was repealed in 1933, but the art of backwoods whisky making was well-established by then, and surely continues to this day.

There are many other Jacks, and one other Delilah (along with a Delia, which seems close) in the Grateful Dead song repertoire. I love this about Grateful Dead songs—all the names of all the characters. But Jack comes up repeatedly. Someday there should be a little essay just about all those Jacks, from Jack Straw to the Jack who is asked not to dominate the rap, to Jack of Jack and Jill, to Wolfman Jack, to Jack the Ripper, to Jack-a-Roe. More than four of a kind in a hand of jacks, for sure.

Another story, which again, given the all-ages nature of this blog, I must not relate in full, has to do with an occasion featuring a bottle of grenadine and one certain brown-eyed woman….

Over to you all: family stories from the Great Depression (or from today’s parallel Great Recession)? Coping with the loss of a partner? Making it through hard times by hook or by crook? Women with brown eyes? Looking forward to your stories and reflections.

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Continuing the theme from last week of songs from the never-recorded post-American Beauty studio album, how about if we talk about “Brown-Eyed Women”?

I went to Terrapin Crossroads not too long ago with a whole bunch of friends, mostly librarians, to compete in the Trivia Night contest, up against Phil and his team, and about five other teams. We came in third, and actually beat Phil’s team, which was pretty good, I thought. The only Grateful Dead-related trivia was a fill-in-the-blank lyrics question: “Delilah Jones was the mother of twins, _____ times over, and the rest were sins…” I am happy to say our team got that one right.

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Thank you so much. This was such a great read.This is one of my mojo songs; there ain't much I can't do after listening to this Masterpiece. "Sound of the Thunder..." "Went to meet her God..." Thank Heavens there are so many versions; I could never get enough. "The bottle was dusty but the liquor was clean..." I have felt bad for the old man for so many years...I came up with the idea to have the old man getting on with a little gruntyness like um he was getting ~on~. Bet the old man might like it. One last arooooo before it's his turn to go. Well, it was a loving thought for the old man embedded in this song. I love this song and your blog. Rock On!
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Bigfoot County! I love the Sasquatch. This song was one of the first to get me on the bus. The melody, the history of bootlegging and "the old, weird America", and young road trips from Wisconsin out to the Rockies are all evoked by this wonderful song. I love the 77 versions with the blistering solo in the middle but will always default to 72.
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is one of my favorite Dead storytelling songs. Masterfully worded. The story of an impoverished American family that was forced to turn to illegal activities in order to stay afloat; becoming victims of circumstance in more ways than one. How could you not sympathize with the characters in this song? Non-enigmatic and beautiful in it's setting and storyline. And the description of your mother and father was beautiful too, David. Thank you. Your candor is much appreciated. ** That picture reminds me of an indie documentary I saw several years ago (Last Run?) about a modern day Appalachian moonshiner- old, thin fella. Very talented with raw materials! One thing that stuck with me was a story he told. A woman who knew what he was doing told him one day that he "was going to burn in Hell for makin' that 'shine". His casual reply? "Well, if I get there first, I'll make sure to save you a seat". Sooooo sweet :)
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I really love the Spartan Stadium version of "Brown Eyed Women" from April 22, 1979 with Brent Mydland...his debut. He plays the electric piano and the new arrangement sounds wonderful. Also 5/4/72 Olympia Paris is another favorite version.... I remember several years ago, driving thru western New York State on the Southern Tier Expressway (Route 17/ future Interstate 86) on a cold, snowy winter's day. I was listening to "Brown Eyed Women" and when it came to the verse "It snowed so hard that the roof caved in" it really started to snow... but the landscape of my surroundings was so gentle and picturesque. Snow on all the houses. Really put me in a great relaxed mood. Then and there the song became one of my favorites to dream to.....
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looking back over time gone by for the narrator and for us an age gone by of old rural hard-times America. Amazing evocative images created with just a few words in a few lines. The depression, untamed America, the days when money was made, if at all, on the land and/or outside the so-called law. Life taken as it came with no regrets. Real experience in all its rawness. Heady strong liquor and the nearness of a death around the corner and, maybe, a moment with one who beckons. Nostalgia for those hard days gone by and the life lived. I always wondered if "when the ox fell down" meant a time when the work of plowing had to be done without the animals because they were now gone and times got even rougher than they had been. Any thoughts on that particular phrase?
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Europe 72's version has always been a favorite 5/15/83's starts off like an old car and we go on a wild ride in the countryside when i saw furthur in Eugene a couple years ago, they played it, and i sang along really loud. it was great. great song
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I have an old friend from Milwaukee, who always told me a story about his poetry professor in college in the 70s, how the teacher will put an example of the purest and perfect poetic creation, the chorus of this song: Brown-eyed women and red grenadine The bottle was dusty but the liquor was clean Sound of the thunder with the rain pouring down And it looks like the old man's getting on
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This song and "Ramble on Rose" are two of the Dead's most solid songs - great lyrics, great stories, great music and fabulous breaks. Always liked to hear it early in the first set back in the 70s - just as things were coming on... It always put me in a really nice and safe mellow mood for the pyrotechnics sure to come later!
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As someone who enjoys a drink every now and then and also make my own beer, this song has always seemed very familiar...but who hasn't had to deal with loss of some kind?
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The version of 'Brown-Eyed Women' that appears on Dick's Picks Volume 35 from 24 August 1971 is missing the bridge. Presumably, like 'The Greatest Story Ever Told' on Three From the Vault, this was an early version and the song was revised later on. The bridge not only worked beautifully in a musical sense, but really added to the poignancy of the lyrics: Tumble-down shack in Big Foot County Snowed so hard that the roof caved in Delilah Jones went to meet her God And the old man never was the same again A lovely song, one of my favourites from the first time I heard it on Europe 72 in 1973, so it was great when it turned up when I saw them here in London, in 1974 and 1981, sadly not during the gig in 1990 (it was played a couple of days before). Only recently I was listening to some gigs from the last, sad year of 1995 when the band was getting decidedly creaky, and one song that still sounded fresh and nicely turned out was 'Brown-Eyed Women'.
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The line,"didn't get the lickins the other ones had",reminded me of my dad. He was the last of eight kids. His dad died when he was three. I thought the kid was the last of eight, and the old man passed away. I also thought the line was "went to meet her guide". Such a wonderful song. I know these songs are timeless. I enjoyed them at 14, and still find meaning in them at 43. The band The Giving Tree do a KILLER cover of this. Check out youtube. Gone are the days when the ladies said please...Weird how Van Halen,Rush,etc. sound dated now. Not the Dead. The Dead are timeless.
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I always thought the lines, "Delilah Jones went to meet her God, and the old man never was the same again" meant that God never was the same, after Delilah got up there and got done with him.
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About the sentimentality of this song in the family setting. Many is the time I have shed a tear or two listening to "...and the old man never was the same again." Timeless beyond doubt, Hunter rips the heart right out of us with Jerry and the boys sharing their fair load...
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There was a time when this was my favorite Dead song. Some of it was the narrator feeling his own age, both directly ("gone are the days . . .") and through his parents (mom died, and the old man never was the same again). It was also a good story. (Though it is one of those songs that Jerry messed up occasionally, mixing up or repeating verses. No offense!) Maybe it's a "mondegreen", but I seem to remember believing that the line in at least one concert was, "Didn't get religion like the other ones had." (But then, I guess I've "heard" some weird things in other songs too -- for years, I thought that in "Me and My Uncle" in Skullfuck, the line was "I'm as honest as a gamblin' man can be", which certainly seems to make more sense that "Denver man".) But I digress. I always appreciated the feeling that Jerry seemed to put into the lyrics, which is why I liked it so much. Other songs have surpassed it in my mind (Black Peter, Wharf Rat, Sing Me Back Home) because of the feeling in those songs, but there's still that memory every time I hear it.
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very nice, looks like the one's you see up here in the mountains. Popcorn Sutton made some of the finest sippin licker that there ever was. Some might find this sacareligious, and maybe it's because they always seemed to play this one when I saw them, but this was a bathroom song for me. The lyrics are great, but I just can't seem to catch that tune.
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I understand how some might find this song a time to relieve oneself. It does evoke a lot of emotion for me, even as I feel it somehow misses the mark. Rather, I should say it isn't a bulls-eye. Jerry, I think, used to talk about their being off the mark as part of the attraction of the Grateful Dead. Somehow, within the imperfection, comes something to be heard and felt. He was relating it to the human condition. I would sum up this song as "sadness". Children of alcoholic parent(s) should easily get it. And nobody likes to feel sad or see their parent(s) drunk or dying. How it is a part of life though... I can understand how some people might check out temporarily for this song. There was so much to a Grateful Dead concert. I am totally grateful even for the songs I didn't particularly like.
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Another example where the walls come down is in the first verse of Ramble on Rose. Brown Eyed Women is a fabulous song, perfectly crafted. The largesse of 1971 / 72 Grateful Dead is extraordinary, scattering these gorgeous new tunes through the Skull and Roses and Europe 72 live albums. It is interesting to think about how they would have been tackled in the studio. If another song oriented studio album had emerged in '71 or '72, as finely crafted as Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, building on the audience for those albums, and powered by the Warners marketing machine, maybe Grateful Dead would have attracted a huge mass audience.
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For me this is one of Hunter's best story distillations, and Jerry's most dovetailing songwriting efforts. When Jerry was of strong voice this song was as sweet as a slice of pecan pie. Maybe we wanted more obfuscation and mystery in hunter's lyrics? I cherished this in the first set as an example of the Hunter/Garcia team at the top of their songwriting game. This song would sound good outside of the dead context - jimmy buffet could cover this and though it doesn't have any references to Caribbean culture some might mistake it for his own. Maybe that's the reason why people headed to the bar or john for this number, it was so pure to be almost generically good. I for one think it is one of the forgotten goodies in the canon. Right there with must have been the roses and china doll.
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This lyric makes me want to reach for a whiskey. Nobody could put together vignettes of America's past like Robert Hunter. Him and Robbie Robertson.
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I remember being a 15 yr old looking through the Cassettes for The Album this song was on.. I could only find it on Live albums.. LOL.. They had "The Night of the Living Dead" radio show on a local Baltimore/DC station when I was a teen...Id watch late horror show and then go to my basement smoke a bowl and listen to Live dead shows.. from there i'd search for My favorite songs etc... This was mid 1980...first show in 1988 at 16 yrs old..Still listen every day....
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Reading your comments ALWAYS brings fresh insight--it's so great to have a community-wide conversation. I especially liked the quote-unquote "mis-hearing" (Hunter, you will remember, claimed that these were actually valid alternative hearings, one reason he was reluctant for so long to see his words on the page): "Did get religion like the other ones had." Just fantastic! And the wonderful notion that the old man who never was the same again was Delilah's god. Thanks for opening up the song in new ways, everyone.
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Back in 1980-81 I was caretaker for a year of an old ranch between East Glacier, Montana and Marias Pass (Glacier County) on the RWR. I lived in the original building on the place built in 1917 by Joe Halle last of the Montana train robbers. Joe and "Slippery Bill" held up the passenger train near snow slip on the old Great Northern line or the "Hi-line" back in the 20s. The winds blow heavy on the border line. Many a winter night the snow drifted around the old log cabin. It snowed so high I left the Willy's over a mile away out by Highway 2 and would hike, ski or snowshoe in and out. I would sometimes go into the main lodge and tune in the crystal radio set to far away radio stations beaming in anywhere from Churchhill, Manitoba and Albuquerque, New Mexico. So by all means these songs ring true to this old pilgrim. " Snowed so high that the roof caved in." Indeed
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I've been gobbling up 1971 and 1972 shows lately, so naturally I have been hearing this song quite a lot. Jerry always delievered it with such sincerity and soul. You'd almost believe he lived this story sometimes upon hearing it. The music and the lyrics are a perfect match and compliment each other brilliantly. And another user mentioned that no one captured old time America better than Hunter - oh so true! He's a master at it. So many of his songs are so accessible that you can walk in and experience another time; this is one of them.
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Its amazing to me how strong this song is, the music combined with the evocative lyrics is enough to bring a grown man to cry! Loved hearing Jerry sing this, such emotion. I just watched Dead and Co. do it on Jimmy Fallon and it was a really good version! John Mayer really did it justice, very much worth checking out in my opinion. Sure do miss Jerry........
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my favorite version of this song..... I miss 1977 and I miss Jerry... Can I get a witness?
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When exploring the lyrics of this song, I can't help but hear that Delilah's youngest son (or one of the youngest) is the narrator of the story. He begins the song by reminiscing then goes progressively further into past accounts of how his father got started in the bootlegging business and how he lost his mother before she could properly rear him; or possibly because his father lost the will to do it after losing her. ("Raised eight boys, only I turned bad; Didn't get the lickings that the other ones had.") He continues to talk about cutting hickory with his father to help the family get by on making whiskey, partaking in drinking to add to his vigor out of the hardship and upbringing. This is why he keeps going back to commenting on how his "old man's getting on" through all that they've been through. I also feel that the way he keeps alluding to his mother as Delilah and calling his father Daddy or Old Man infers that the death occurred before he properly knew her, making him among the youngest of the kids. To take it a step further, I would also like to propose the rash concept that that Jack may not actually be Delilah's husband but rather her son and the narrator himself. Only Robert Hunter knows for sure, so I'll leave that up for debate. I hope you will listen to the lyrics from this viewpoint and that it brings on a whole new world of beautiful meaning for you. Would love to hear your comments/retorts, as it's definitely one of those lyrical rabbit holes!
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still missing him, after all these years
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I wonder if Robert Hunter was inspired by Van Morrison's "Brown-eyed girl", written a few years earlier?
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I always felt that this song evokes some strong imagery. It was such a rough time to be poor in America. Perhaps all those kids, some illegitimate (sins) were highly disciplined by those lickins, keeping them in line. That's a lot of people to live in one shack. But the narrator, who turned "bad," did not get these said lickin's. I've always wondered why he's bad, what he does that makes him bad? To me it sounds like he worked his ass off. There really is no clue in the song about any trouble he got into. Perhaps the story is told from way in the future and he's reminiscing about his life. Maybe he went astray.Also, what might be the meaning of the title, Brown-Eyed Women? Edit: I just thought, maybe, he drank down a whole bottle and did do some killin...
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Gonna move there someday. Been living there all my life.
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I think about this song a lot. One line: cut hickory just to fire the still. Have you ever cut Hickory? Very tough to do so. Also, it's valuable wood that is used to make fine custom furniture, so why cut it "just" to burn it? Implication That valuable wood burning makes better hooch? Does it? I doubt it but another great great Hunter lyric...a lot of hazy meanings in a simple phrase.
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I don't think that Jack is the Old man's name. I think Jack Jones, is any farm-hand. Gone are the days when the ox fall down take up the oak and plow the, fields around Gone are the days when the ladies said "clays, gently Jack Jones won't you come to me?" Gone are the days when the Dead didn't know what they were doing. (sweating working and drinking) That girl wants it in the ass from any intimidating black man. Brown bottle, brown-eyed women. Red grenadine would bite through, to the dusty bottle. If you could rub away, the dust, and the bottle, you'd have the valuable portion. Jerry likes to say, the trick's out of the bag, with "the old man's gettin' known". I don't have any more planned comments on this song, other than I think it is one of the best Grateful Dead songs, if not, the best. Hickory might actually influence the flavor of the whiskey. They use peat smoke in scotch and that changes the flavor. "The “peaty” flavor in Scotch comes from the malting process, where the dried barley absorbs the smoke odor from the burning peat used in the drying.” Brown? Eyed women...
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I take this as an unconscious dream state blending of emotions and thoughts working their way into consciousness from the edges of the synapses of memory (This dawned on me after the latest King Crimson concert in San Francisco in 2017 - that your unfinished thoughts get parked at the edge of your awareness and re-assemble through pattern recognition and appear as dreams for possible resolution) and back into recognition - i.e. waking up in the tent after the "Sound Check" the first night at the Further Festival in Angel's Camp. You're in, for the sake of the argument, a hung-over state and ears still ringing from the show, and you're in an old mining town and the unconscious of the area and the crowd influence your perceptions before you wake all the way up and go analytical. Not that particular place, just the analogy to old-time Bigfoot County. These songs often have various interlinking meanings on different levels, and I have been thinking about this one since driving to LA and back for the recent Dead & Co. Dodgers Stadium show. Not much has been said about Owsley's past, but he was from a political family in Kentucky. His grandfather, A. Owsley Stanley, a member of the United States Senate after serving as Governor of Kentucky and in the U.S. House of Representatives, campaigned against Prohibition in the 1920s. Remember that George Washington himself led federal troops to put down the Whiskey Rebellion where the Kentucky whiskey men did not want to pay Federal tax on one of their few means of making good money - so the moonshine gene ran deep in that family. Hence Bear's indifference to "moonshining" LSD in the modern era. So there's your Prohibition era link. Bear ordered a good supply of Sandoz LSD before it became illegal in California, and if I remember right, he stashed the supplies to make more against future troubles. So, if "The bottle was dusty, but the liquor was clean", it seems like a reference to some good "old" lsd coming out of deep storage,compared to what came along later made by other people. "Cost two dollars and it burned like hell" - seems like I recall hearing that a hit did cost $2.00 in those days. Further, "I cut hickory just to fire the still", seems like a reference to Jerry carrying on the fire with his "axe" (guitar) and in a bit of a stretch, "wood-shedding" to hone his musical skills. In other words, the band played on while Bear was in prison, and "the old man" (born in 1935) was "getting on." There's also Andrew Jackson, aka "Old Hickory" from Tennessee as a reference. This could lead into Tennessee Jed (Kentucky doesn't rhyme as well) and remember Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters up in Oregon as another backwoods presence in the mythos. "Since I came down from Oregon", etc.. Lyricists have a lot of leeway in their craft. Owsley showed up at the Alembic store the day he was released from prison, and asked where all the money had gone? Some hard words were spoken (This from a first-hand account), and some further analogies can be drawn from that. Finally, Jerry had had some scrapes with the law which led to his enlistment, and he escaped "the lickings the other ones got" - a common practice in the 60's. I know this is a bit of a musicologist's stretch, but driving from NorCal to LA non-stop with station number 23 on the satellite dial can lead to such musings. Feel free to disagree - just my take on the song, and yes, it is a very good one indeed!
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Just some thoughts and comments after the bridge. "I cut hickory just to fire the still, Drink down a bottle and you're ready to kill". As some have mentioned the depression of Jack's father after losing Delilah and of course the Great Depression time period, this line has stood out to me. To me it’s the moment in the song that isn’t the past but the present. Jack being the youngest and the other 12 siblings either have moved on or died leaving Jack to care for his depressed father. Being that desperate to make a living post-depression & prohibition by willing to burn the furniture (assuming that it is made of hickory) he made for Delilah and his then 13 kids. Had to be a tough time for the both of them but Jack persists to get his dad on his feet. Whereas during the depression Jacks father made decent wages selling "red grenadine" and delivering the whiskey to the burlesque houses and hidden bars where the Brown-Eyed Women and "Red Grenadine" flowed thanks to Jacks soon to be depressed but talented shiner of a father. There is a moment in time where he quits making the shine after the house comes a part during the winter storm that kills his wife Delilah. I'd like to believe this is when he gives up, "Gone are the days". Jack being the one to get his dad back on his feet but having to sacrifice a lot to rebuild. You can buy a bottle of Whisky for cheap and legally now but as Jack sells the product in the song, “Cost two dollars and it burns like hell” they are “getting on”. Side note: The worst feeling ever picking and a grinnin this song to folks is not nailing the bridge... It happened the last time at a local venue where I was able to play some Dead tunes to some friends before Hurricane Florence. Damn song was going great and my hands stopped working right at the bridge. It was a bummer and I recovered but that bridge is so important to the story and you’d hate to lose your audience to rusty fingers. I have practiced and won’t do it again.
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  • MHCTerrapin
    2 months 2 weeks ago
    Back to the Future
    Just some thoughts and comments after the bridge. "I cut hickory just to fire the still, Drink down a bottle and you're ready to kill". As some have mentioned the depression of Jack's father after losing Delilah and of course the Great Depression time period, this line has stood out to me. To me it’s the moment in the song that isn’t the past but the present. Jack being the youngest and the other 12 siblings either have moved on or died leaving Jack to care for his depressed father. Being that desperate to make a living post-depression & prohibition by willing to burn the furniture (assuming that it is made of hickory) he made for Delilah and his then 13 kids. Had to be a tough time for the both of them but Jack persists to get his dad on his feet. Whereas during the depression Jacks father made decent wages selling "red grenadine" and delivering the whiskey to the burlesque houses and hidden bars where the Brown-Eyed Women and "Red Grenadine" flowed thanks to Jacks soon to be depressed but talented shiner of a father. There is a moment in time where he quits making the shine after the house comes a part during the winter storm that kills his wife Delilah. I'd like to believe this is when he gives up, "Gone are the days". Jack being the one to get his dad back on his feet but having to sacrifice a lot to rebuild. You can buy a bottle of Whisky for cheap and legally now but as Jack sells the product in the song, “Cost two dollars and it burns like hell” they are “getting on”. Side note: The worst feeling ever picking and a grinnin this song to folks is not nailing the bridge... It happened the last time at a local venue where I was able to play some Dead tunes to some friends before Hurricane Florence. Damn song was going great and my hands stopped working right at the bridge. It was a bummer and I recovered but that bridge is so important to the story and you’d hate to lose your audience to rusty fingers. I have practiced and won’t do it again.
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    acornaxe
    5 months ago
    The bottle was dusty - - -
    I take this as an unconscious dream state blending of emotions and thoughts working their way into consciousness from the edges of the synapses of memory (This dawned on me after the latest King Crimson concert in San Francisco in 2017 - that your unfinished thoughts get parked at the edge of your awareness and re-assemble through pattern recognition and appear as dreams for possible resolution) and back into recognition - i.e. waking up in the tent after the "Sound Check" the first night at the Further Festival in Angel's Camp. You're in, for the sake of the argument, a hung-over state and ears still ringing from the show, and you're in an old mining town and the unconscious of the area and the crowd influence your perceptions before you wake all the way up and go analytical. Not that particular place, just the analogy to old-time Bigfoot County. These songs often have various interlinking meanings on different levels, and I have been thinking about this one since driving to LA and back for the recent Dead & Co. Dodgers Stadium show. Not much has been said about Owsley's past, but he was from a political family in Kentucky. His grandfather, A. Owsley Stanley, a member of the United States Senate after serving as Governor of Kentucky and in the U.S. House of Representatives, campaigned against Prohibition in the 1920s. Remember that George Washington himself led federal troops to put down the Whiskey Rebellion where the Kentucky whiskey men did not want to pay Federal tax on one of their few means of making good money - so the moonshine gene ran deep in that family. Hence Bear's indifference to "moonshining" LSD in the modern era. So there's your Prohibition era link. Bear ordered a good supply of Sandoz LSD before it became illegal in California, and if I remember right, he stashed the supplies to make more against future troubles. So, if "The bottle was dusty, but the liquor was clean", it seems like a reference to some good "old" lsd coming out of deep storage,compared to what came along later made by other people. "Cost two dollars and it burned like hell" - seems like I recall hearing that a hit did cost $2.00 in those days. Further, "I cut hickory just to fire the still", seems like a reference to Jerry carrying on the fire with his "axe" (guitar) and in a bit of a stretch, "wood-shedding" to hone his musical skills. In other words, the band played on while Bear was in prison, and "the old man" (born in 1935) was "getting on." There's also Andrew Jackson, aka "Old Hickory" from Tennessee as a reference. This could lead into Tennessee Jed (Kentucky doesn't rhyme as well) and remember Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters up in Oregon as another backwoods presence in the mythos. "Since I came down from Oregon", etc.. Lyricists have a lot of leeway in their craft. Owsley showed up at the Alembic store the day he was released from prison, and asked where all the money had gone? Some hard words were spoken (This from a first-hand account), and some further analogies can be drawn from that. Finally, Jerry had had some scrapes with the law which led to his enlistment, and he escaped "the lickings the other ones got" - a common practice in the 60's. I know this is a bit of a musicologist's stretch, but driving from NorCal to LA non-stop with station number 23 on the satellite dial can lead to such musings. Feel free to disagree - just my take on the song, and yes, it is a very good one indeed!
  • Honolulu DeadHead
    6 months 1 week ago
    Jack is not the old man's name (opinion).
    I don't think that Jack is the Old man's name. I think Jack Jones, is any farm-hand. Gone are the days when the ox fall down take up the oak and plow the, fields around Gone are the days when the ladies said "clays, gently Jack Jones won't you come to me?" Gone are the days when the Dead didn't know what they were doing. (sweating working and drinking) That girl wants it in the ass from any intimidating black man. Brown bottle, brown-eyed women. Red grenadine would bite through, to the dusty bottle. If you could rub away, the dust, and the bottle, you'd have the valuable portion. Jerry likes to say, the trick's out of the bag, with "the old man's gettin' known". I don't have any more planned comments on this song, other than I think it is one of the best Grateful Dead songs, if not, the best. Hickory might actually influence the flavor of the whiskey. They use peat smoke in scotch and that changes the flavor. "The “peaty” flavor in Scotch comes from the malting process, where the dried barley absorbs the smoke odor from the burning peat used in the drying.” Brown? Eyed women...