Grateful Dead

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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 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, 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


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Joined: Jun 7 2007
I don't know you David

But I'll miss you when you're gone

mbarilla's picture
Joined: Aug 8 2013
cheers !! and happy trails

may the four winds blow you safely home

He's Gone from 9-8-73 ,, check it out people.

"Steal your face right off your head"

mustin321's picture
Joined: Aug 12 2011
Thank you Grately, David

Two Years?! Where does the time go?

Strider 88's picture
Joined: Jun 20 2007
He's Gone

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.

Joined: Feb 28 2011
He's Gone

See you down range David
Thanks for the chat on the Way

Joined: May 28 2012
You know better, but I know him

Thanks David for this wonderful blog, and thanks to the community that's added so much!

sisterearth's picture
Joined: Nov 26 2007
I Thank You

... 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!

Joined: Aug 2 2013
no our love will not fade away

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 will find a replacement. We love you more than words can tell

unkle sam's picture
Joined: Oct 3 2008
Bring back Blair!!!

Thanks David, now, let's get Blair back, ok?

84-95's picture
Joined: Aug 29 2012
Many Thanks and Praises, David ...

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?


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