• January 15, 2015
    http://www.dead.net/features/greatest-stories-ever-told/greatest-stories-ever-told-hes-gone
    Greatest Stories Ever Told - "He's Gone"

    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!)

    “He's Gone”

    The songs can “mean” whatever is ready to be reflected in your heart. The songs can allow you to connect with another aspect of humanity in a deeper way. The songs can wash over you, burrow down into your soul, spring back to new life over time, fade away into the background, but always, always inhabit a place present as an undercurrent to whatever life you choose to live. The songs fill the air, make the still water ripple, cause us to bend our ear to hear the tune, end as a scrap of age-old lullaby down some forgotten street. The songs can function as a secret code between and among people who hardly know each other. They can adorn t-shirts and bumper stickers and elaborate murals and carved mantles in homes yet to be built. The songs invite reflection and writing, conversation and sometimes argument.

    I love most songs I have heard and really listened to, because each one gives me a window into the soul of a fellow human being. And I love the non-human songs, too, of animals and birds and wind and wave.

    Grateful Dead songs are my bedrock. They are not words accompanied by music, nor music with lyrics laid on top. They are whole entities and they have, for me, an integrity that I give them—a richness with which I (or you, for yourself) invest them. They were labored over carefully by their authors and decorated by their performers. And they will continue, if they have continued value, which I believe they do. They’ll be played around campfires, in lengthy rock jams by new bands yet to be born, in churches, on whatever devices for recorded music playback are yet to be invented, and they’ll be preserved and listened to and endlessly discussed and translated and morphed over time into new things that we can’t really imagine yet.

    It has been an honor beyond my expectations to have written about these songs here on Dead.net for the past two years. I have enjoyed the back-and-forth with all of the readers who have taken the time to leave comments. You have been kind to me in my many errors. But I have reached the point where I am struggling to find time in my life to write something on a weekly basis. My life is very full, with family, a spiritual community, meaningful work, and my own music, and I have been carving out space for a new, yet-to-be-determined undertaking that will likely involve classical music.

    So: there are many songs about saying fare you well, about leaving today and going away, about there being no simple highway, about the road, and all of them run through my head in a kaleidoscope of melody.

    It will be a fun year, 2015, as we, the Deadhead community, celebrate 50 years of the band. I look forward to some amazing live music coming up! I look forward to the oceans of ink that will be spilled, as friends and colleagues publish books and articles.

    I am happy to have become a member of the Rhino community — I think the people who are entrusted with the Dead’s recorded treasures are good folks, and I think we should all take a minute to be thankful for that now and then. Thank you to Lauren Goldberg, who shepherded this blog from week to week, and to Mark Pinkus, who asked me to write. A special thanks to Mary Eisenhart, whose observations and support have made this a much better endeavor than it would have been without her steady presence.

    And, lastly, I hope that, as long as these posts remain on Dead.net, readers will feel moved to add your thoughts to the conversations! I will touch base with all of them over time to read new insights and participate in the conversation.

    With love to everyone — David Dodd

    378896
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

9 years 8 months

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!)

“He's Gone”

The songs can “mean” whatever is ready to be reflected in your heart. The songs can allow you to connect with another aspect of humanity in a deeper way. The songs can wash over you, burrow down into your soul, spring back to new life over time, fade away into the background, but always, always inhabit a place present as an undercurrent to whatever life you choose to live. The songs fill the air, make the still water ripple, cause us to bend our ear to hear the tune, end as a scrap of age-old lullaby down some forgotten street. The songs can function as a secret code between and among people who hardly know each other. They can adorn t-shirts and bumper stickers and elaborate murals and carved mantles in homes yet to be built. The songs invite reflection and writing, conversation and sometimes argument.

I love most songs I have heard and really listened to, because each one gives me a window into the soul of a fellow human being. And I love the non-human songs, too, of animals and birds and wind and wave.

Grateful Dead songs are my bedrock. They are not words accompanied by music, nor music with lyrics laid on top. They are whole entities and they have, for me, an integrity that I give them—a richness with which I (or you, for yourself) invest them. They were labored over carefully by their authors and decorated by their performers. And they will continue, if they have continued value, which I believe they do. They’ll be played around campfires, in lengthy rock jams by new bands yet to be born, in churches, on whatever devices for recorded music playback are yet to be invented, and they’ll be preserved and listened to and endlessly discussed and translated and morphed over time into new things that we can’t really imagine yet.

It has been an honor beyond my expectations to have written about these songs here on Dead.net for the past two years. I have enjoyed the back-and-forth with all of the readers who have taken the time to leave comments. You have been kind to me in my many errors. But I have reached the point where I am struggling to find time in my life to write something on a weekly basis. My life is very full, with family, a spiritual community, meaningful work, and my own music, and I have been carving out space for a new, yet-to-be-determined undertaking that will likely involve classical music.

So: there are many songs about saying fare you well, about leaving today and going away, about there being no simple highway, about the road, and all of them run through my head in a kaleidoscope of melody.

It will be a fun year, 2015, as we, the Deadhead community, celebrate 50 years of the band. I look forward to some amazing live music coming up! I look forward to the oceans of ink that will be spilled, as friends and colleagues publish books and articles.

I am happy to have become a member of the Rhino community — I think the people who are entrusted with the Dead’s recorded treasures are good folks, and I think we should all take a minute to be thankful for that now and then. Thank you to Lauren Goldberg, who shepherded this blog from week to week, and to Mark Pinkus, who asked me to write. A special thanks to Mary Eisenhart, whose observations and support have made this a much better endeavor than it would have been without her steady presence.

And, lastly, I hope that, as long as these posts remain on Dead.net, readers will feel moved to add your thoughts to the conversations! I will touch base with all of them over time to read new insights and participate in the conversation.

With love to everyone — David Dodd

Custom Sidebar

Listen on Spotify

Display on homepage featured list
On
Homepage Feature blurb
The songs can “mean” whatever is ready to be reflected in your heart. The songs can allow you to connect with another aspect of humanity in a deeper way. The songs can wash over you, burrow down into your soul, spring back to new life over time, fade away into the background...
Homepage Feature title
Greatest Stories Ever Told - "He's Gone"
summary
The songs can “mean” whatever is ready to be reflected in your heart. The songs can allow you to connect with another aspect of humanity in a deeper way. The songs can wash over you, burrow down into your soul, spring back to new life over time, fade away into the background...
Custom Teaser

The songs can “mean” whatever is ready to be reflected in your heart. The songs can allow you to connect with another aspect of humanity in a deeper way. The songs can wash over you, burrow down into your soul, spring back to new life over time, fade away into the background...

dead comment

user picture

Member for

11 years 6 months
Permalink

Safe travels down the golden road...
user picture

Member for

9 years 4 months
Permalink

I always read and enjoyed you're blog. Between you and the people who have posted, I actually learned a few things about the band we all love.
user picture

Member for

6 years 4 months
Permalink

It was a genuine pleasure reading your research and insights. Best wishes going forward for you and your loved ones. BTW, I hope you found your American Beauty :-)
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

6 years 6 months
Permalink

Thanks David. We've all had us a very High Time through these last two years. I feel sad - the same way I did a couple of years back when Blair signed off. But I know there'll be somebody else Playing in the Band and I'm sure you're Not going to Fade Away either. Thanks for the pleasure - week after week. Sure, it's your time to say That's It and move on to The Other One.
user picture

Member for

6 years
Permalink

David, this blog/community/whatever has been so much fun! Thanks for your insightful writings and thanks to everybody for sharing their experiences of the songs. Good luck! And just a note that He's Gone is yet another gem of a song in my mind. The array of images is astounding, from the grit of a (presumably dead) rat in a drain ditch, to the Americana of Maggie on the hot tin roof, to the beautiful calming image of the pistol that's cool inside, to the image of the high cold mountain. This song hits all the buttons, and also succeeds in being a sad paean to a lost compatriot.
user picture

Member for

5 years 3 months
Permalink

Thank you so much for a great series of writings on a beautiful subject matter. I think this is a good song to end on (even if you don't say much about it). It's defintely one of those "sing me back home" kind of songs; it has a definite feeling of returning to something simpler, in this case in the absence of a familiar presence, recently departed. The solo section has a sound that I can only think of as "high and lonesome" (though I think there's a better description out there), like that a long train ride through the rain in the mountains, just trying to get back home.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

11 years 1 month
Permalink

Was the song about Lenny Hart? My favorite versions are from 1973 (Kesar Stadium 5/26 and Watkins Glen 7/28 are real good ones). The "nothing's gonna bring him back" part is spectacular, featuring bass vocals from Phil Lesh! Then a nice jam into "Truckin." Thanks Dave for all of your cool song blogs. I enjoyed them all, though I am very disappointed that we aren't going to get song blogs for "Keep Your Day Job" or "Antwerp's Placeabo" or "Money Money."
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

8 years 11 months
Permalink

I'll miss this weekly little treat. "Nothing left to do but smile smile smile": i think of this line as how you feel after hearing about a show, getting tickets, making arrangements, making the trek, getting in to the show, finding your place...and now there's NLTDBSSS. :)))
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

3 years 10 months
Permalink

Today the sunshine came out after two weeks of grey cold weather and GD announced the 50th celebration. Anyway I ran across this blog while reading the announcement. I normally don't do social media, but this song He's Gone is where it started for me. My short story: My older brother died of an accidental gunshot when I was 9, after which I started getting into trouble. My parents sent me off to boring school. I remember seeing the Europe 72 CD in the store thinking it was skater punk music so I bought it wanting to be cool. One of the first GD songs I heard was "He's Gone". Listening in my dorm room I broke down into tears grieving my brother's death. The music helped me grieve. I became a Deadhead that day. Not knowing that it would change the course of my life I kept listening; My strange trip began. Somehow I was hooked into the psychedelic, country, folk sound, and the community. WOW this Summer is going to awesome. I have been chasing the Grateful Dead aura -- or magic that happens at GD shows since 1995. I can't wait to celebrate with all you friends this Summer over the 4th. Gratefully,
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

10 years 9 months
Permalink

Thanks David, for all you have done. As stated earlier, this weekly or mostly weekly post has been something to look forward to. For me it was an extension of the Annotated Lyrics with new insight and of course comments from the crowd.
user picture

Member for

6 years 3 months
Permalink

for giving us all a real good time! He's Gone. Such a sweet, sweet, bittersweet piece. Yet another case of words and music fitting together so beautifully, it is almost incomprehensible that it is a collaboration-it seems as if it should have emerged fully formed, like Aphrodite, from the chaos of the big bang. Is there just one speaker in the verses, and are they the same speaker as in the bridge? Is each verse a dialogue, with the last line (sung in unison) a response to the previous lines in that verse? The bridge: is it the "one" speaker; the "second" speaker; or, can it be a third party, who was the subject of the discussion within the verses, chiming in with their side of the story? In any case, nothing's gonna bring him back. As they say in sports, "Father Time is Undefeated." 50th anniversary reunion in Chicago, $60-$250? Out on the road today, I saw a deadhead sticker on a Cadillac. Don't look back ... it's all a dream we dreamed one afternoon long ago. I guess it doesn't matter, anyway. Thanks again David! I'll hold out hope for your triumphant return: did you ever get to Morning Dew?
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

5 years 4 months
Permalink

Thanks David for some very insightful writings the past two years. I have always looked forward to reading your posts every Thursday or Friday. I have learned a lot from these and hope that someone else will carry the torch. Like you said it is very important for the songs to continue on via whatever device the world has for us. But it is also very important for these songs to be discussed. Not to figure what a song means or to know all the cool facts about it, but to help keep the deadhead community alive on all sorts of mediums. My only hope is that the good people at dead.net will find a replacement. We love you more than words can tell
user picture

Member for

11 years
Permalink

... for a real good time! David, I will miss you here, thanks for all the cool insights. Wishing you many blessings and unexpected joys in your next adventures!
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

7 years 9 months
Permalink

See you down range DavidThanks for the chat on the Way bear
user picture

Member for

11 years 5 months
Permalink

Many great memories of this song. Live in concert, out on the road. Somehow Jerry's guitar could reach right down inside to the soul, and make one feel better. So many thanks to David Dodd. This column gave rise to many thoughts, ideas, ideals, feelings and memories.
user picture

Member for

9 years 5 months
Permalink

We all know that this song was originally written about Lenny Hart, Mickey's father, and what he had done to the band (and his own son!) in such a cold-blooded fashion. But as time and tours passed on, it became an anthem played for anyone in the Grateful Dead Family Circle that had passed on. I can recall the band showing Bill Graham's image behind the stage while this song played during a concert, after Bill had died. And I always like to think that the band had Frank Zappa in mind when they played it on 09 December 1993 at the LA Sports Arena. Even though Zappa couldn't stand their music, members of the Dead liked HIS music. Frank Zappa had just passed away and the PA in the arena was playing the old Mothers Of Invention recordings before the first show on the 8th. Going where the wind don't blow so strange Maybe on some high cold mountain range Last one round but the price wasn't anything Knife in the back And more of the same....... But in spite of all the back-stabbing and weird trips beyond our control that we all experience from time to time, this song puts it best when it tells ya that all we can really do is try to be positive. Nothing left to do but Smile, Smile, Smile :-))
user picture

Member for

11 years 6 months
Permalink

If you haven't read Sam Cutler's account of the whole Lenny debacle (in his book "You Can't Always Get What You Want," I heartily recommend it. Whole book is good, IMO.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

8 years 11 months
Permalink

so it's "the price"? and I'll go to my grave singing "off on some high cold mountain TRAIN." I've seen chain, and range, but my ears hear train every time. btw, for a specialized good time, listen to 7/28/73. The Mountain Jam is exquisite. guests usually don't do anything for me, but that Mountain Jam is gold, Jerry, gold.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

6 years 7 months
Permalink

In Cincinnati there are roads named 4 mile,5 mile, 8,9, 10 mile. Years ago, I'm chasing a married woman (fighting but still living with husband)... I could only stop by when he was gone. Anyway, I had turned left onto 10 mile road,driving by their apartment yet again, when Jerry sang "nine mile skid, on a ten mile ride"....Deep shit; etched in my mind forever.David, Like the "oceans of ink" line. Thank you SO MUCH for personally responding to my posts. It meant a lot..I walk alone by the black muddy river..
user picture

Member for

11 years 5 months
Permalink

Wonderful organ from Pigpen. Almost eerie i.e. "skeleton" keys. Dave, we're gonna miss you when your gone.
user picture

Member for

11 years 5 months
Permalink

I've enjoyed your articles. Thank you for taking the time. Good luck in your future endeavors and with music!!!
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

8 years 1 month
Permalink

a wave of loss hit me on the second or third paragraph when i realized he's gone meant you. omg. loved tuning into your blog periodically. you did a great job. good luck. fgfd.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

5 years 5 months
Permalink

" I Understand Why the Old Fisherman Sailed Alone...someday He'll be Gone..." so sang Jerry on the Reflections album. People Come and People Go but a Good Song is Forever David...I love the way you reflect the heart of these songs we love. Thank you for your devotion to this Blog and to the way you have bent your ear to hear the tunes. Please consider returning here from time to time and draw our attention to another wonderful song. meanwhile..."Shine On-Keep on Shining" Likewise everyone else who has weighed in. I love all the reflections. God Bless You All in the Light of Life "I Love You but Jesus Loves You the Best"
user picture

Member for

11 years 6 months
Permalink

I really appreciate the kind comments from everyone. Sorry for the misleading title to this post--I should have realized that people would expect an essay on "He's Gone," and it's only one of many songs I never got to. When I decided to give up the blog, I was working on "Dupree's Diamond Blues," and I found so much good writing about the song (especially Patrick Blackman's spectacular multi-part examination at http://mbmonday.blogspot.com/2014/10/betty-and-dupree-digital-compendiu…) that I realized I should probably step aside. I do hope someone else writes some kind of ongoing set of essays for the site, taking up where I left off just as I did after Blair, and I'm sure the good people at Dead.net are working on it. Meanwhile, the conversations can go on and on about the songs posted here already.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

8 years 11 months
Permalink

Fare thee well on the road you choose, David."He's Gone" was known as "Duane's Song" at first, to my crew...we were at Hartford 7/16/72 for it's American debut; it was brand new to us, and we were mesmerized by it when it welled up out of the space of "The Other One". Achingly beautiful and lyrically non-specific, but obviously about loss, it brought tears to our eyes. After the Allmans (3 of them, anyway)showed for the end of the show we "naturally" figured it was an ode to Duane Allman, killed just 9 months before in an accident. Probably wasn't until Europe '72 came out that we were put right. But for us, part of the Dead mystique was finding hidden meanings and messages wherever we could...
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

11 years 6 months
Permalink

David, You did AWESOME with this series. Thank you so much for sharing. It is the one post I come back for at least once a month. I understand you want to step back, but please consider keeping posting at a relaxed schedule...once a month, or once a quarter... or whenever your fancy strikes. we need you, but good luck on your new adventure! Kevin Denver, CO
user picture

Member for

9 years 7 months
Permalink

Good luck in your endeavers, Thankk you for all the insight and mutual sharing! I have been listening to a lot of Messiaen lately, dig it!
user picture

Member for

4 years
Permalink

I'm new to the bus and have read many of your posts and dog-eared many pages in your book. It is always insightful and inspiring! Thanks!
user picture

Member for

11 years 6 months
Permalink

I know this has been a labour of love for you, David. Thanks for inspiring so much fun, good will, storytelling and insight. Happy Trails
user picture

Member for

3 years 10 months
Permalink

The story teller makes no choice soon you will not hear his voice...
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

11 years 5 months
Permalink

Thanks for putting up such a nice space to discuss these songs, David. Nicely done indeed. I highly, at least most of the time, suspect that a few of these songs are older than some of us might presume. Kinda compete upon many of their arrivals. Both interesting and curiously ah musing... Peace to all. Byrd
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

3 years 2 months
Permalink

This song is about Mickey Harts father (or uncle, its a little hazy) When he ran off with a big chunk of money he ended up getting dusted with crystal LSD, the equivalent of about 10,000 hits. After such a dose anybody alive becomes captain crazy pants, hence hes never coming back. This may bring a little depth to lyrics like "cat on a tin roof Dogs in a pie" and "nothing left to do but smile smile smile". Love your life family!
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

3 years
Permalink

I have been a casual fan for as long as I can remember but this was the year I dove beneath the water to see the rest of the iceberg. Due in part to some new friends who have helped coach me in the history and the understanding of the live experience and also because of some life changes that were perfectly described by Hunter's words. It all came together at just the right time. I saw my first shows this year and discovered the catalogs of all of the side projects and reincarnations. It's been a good year. But the Greatest Stories blog and David's passionate stewardship of these songs has contributed as much as any other factor to my understanding and appreciation of the catalog. Thank you so much for your hard work and best of luck in whatever life has in store.
user picture

Member for

3 years
Permalink

Just wanted to compliment the 2/26/'81 version we were recently gifted. To this point I would not be the biggestBrent fan, I prefer '65 to '79, but I must admit this one has me thinking again.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

1 year 11 months
Permalink

You must be.Please for the love of God don't do Terrapin. Please. It is something so far beyond the beyond that is beyond and took so much work to get to and so so precious few could possibly understand- because it had to be experienced. It is not something that can be investigated by logic. It is the monument to the creative work of this era and process and please for the sake of my sanity don't attempt it until you are return Unified at source in the logos. And I I call bullshit. He's gone is about Mickey's dad- take a walk kiddo. Let the master speak to his writing- Hunter is the only authority living but for one other person on any of his songs. Send him some money. You sure have made plenty off of him. Yuck. From Recognition.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

1 year 10 months
Permalink

Wow...what a very undeadhead response. I think we all know that this song was inspired by Mickey's dad and the rough situation he put them through, but I guarantee you that the Dead would not tell a listener, "This is what the song's about and you're not allowed to interpret it any other way, and any meaning that's not associated with why we wrote it is unacceptable." Come on, man. Don't be that guy.
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

1 year 9 months
Permalink

It seems to me to symbolize the constant battle with the ego and all the different forms it takes on. Acting or reacting from the ego( anger/negative behavior) is like having your consciousness hijacked. "He Will Steal your Face, Right Off Your Head". It's kind of like it jumps up and runs off leaving you holding the bag and having to deal with the clean up
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

1 year 9 months
Permalink

Lots of songs evolve and mutate for me over time. The good ones do this for most of us, don't they? My early impressions of the song were connected to the dissociation that happens when having a psychedelic experience. It was not a "deep reading" of the text, but made sense to a younger me. About 5 years ago, I heard that it was likely inspired by Mickey's dad and the kerfuffle that followed. When we play the song now, my thoughts and emotional inspiration touch on both of these, but both are wrapped in a much more universal understanding of the inevitability of loss, and the best way to respond to the loss: smile so genuinely that it takes three words to express it. Light is the only cure for darkness after all.Peace,
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

1 year
Permalink

I always visit and enjoyed you're blog. Between you and the people who have posted, I r learned a lot of things about the band we all love.
user picture

Member for

2 years 6 months
Permalink

Thank you David from your local pals in Ptown. I can’t count the number of times I’ve turned to your generous analyses and interpretations over the years. Not taken for granted and appreciate all your efforts. Brian A
user picture
Default Avatar

Member for

7 months
Permalink

Thank you for these insights into the Dead. It's great to see that the community lives on, thriving and keeping the spirit of the music alive. This blog is another expression of this everlasting spiritual flame.
51 comments
sort by
Recent
Reset
Items displayed
  • Default Avatar
    Valentine1818
    2 months 2 weeks ago
    i love this
    wow smiles on my face
  • Default Avatar
    stsilver
    7 months ago
    Love it
    Thank you for these insights into the Dead. It's great to see that the community lives on, thriving and keeping the spirit of the music alive. This blog is another expression of this everlasting spiritual flame.
  • Petaluma Otis
    10 months 1 week ago
    Always appreciated
    Thank you David from your local pals in Ptown. I can’t count the number of times I’ve turned to your generous analyses and interpretations over the years. Not taken for granted and appreciate all your efforts. Brian A