Grateful Dead

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izzie's picture
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Fire On The Mountain (Moses/Exodus connection)

Greetings,
As it seems there is no way to post directly to the 'Annotated Fire On The Mountain' page, I will post here for lack of any other options directly linked to Deadnet. I was recently doing research on the Old Testament of the Bible, and working around the 'fire on the mountain' (exodus 19:18) where Moses speaks and "the voice of God answered him", I stumbled onto an interesting piece of Scripture that may reveal a bit more of the lyrics to FOTM, and possibly bring light to some of Hunter's mixed-metaphor.
In chapter 35 of Exodus, Moses assembled the entire Israelite community to elucidate the commands of the Lord regarding the specific construction of the Tabernacle, the moveable temple which would contain the Ark of the Covenant. Unlike most other commands in which choice was not an option, this exceptionally-important decree was to involve a 'Freewill Offering', whereby it reads: [(5)"Take from among you a contribution to the LORD; whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as the LORD'S contribution: gold, silver, and bronze, (6)and blue, purple and scarlet material, fine linen, goats' hair, (7)and rams' skins dyed red, and porpoise skins, and acacia wood,…"] These materials, explicitly outlined by God and commanded through Moses, were all very precious possessions and useful daily resources among the nomadic Israelite people. Nowhere in the scripture does it say that ANY materials were bought, traded for, or in any way sourced externally-- all of these items had to come from WITHIN the possessions already owned by the people. The fact that this is coupled with the notion of a 'Freewill offering' means, by design, that in all likelihood not everyone was so eager to give over their treasures for the edification of the Tabernacle at the expense of their pocketbook:

"Long distance runner what you standing there for?
Get up, get off, get out of the door
You're playing cold music on the bar room floor,
drowned in your laughter and dead to the core
There's a dragon with matches loose on the town
Take a whole pail of water just to cool him down"

Freedom of choice was permitted here, where an individual might stand reluctant amid throngs of neighbors rushing to sacrifice their own 'water to quench the Lord's fire'...and it may be that in some way what Robert Hunter penned was a view from a house in which someone or some people were confronted with the moral dilemma of self vs. community. The timing and tension is almost palpable, as social pressure mounts, as group conscience intervenes, as (through a mixed metaphor) the 'wood kindling' is close to the desired effect of a 'blaze':

"Almost aflame still you don't feel the heat
Takes all you got just to stay on the beat
You say it's a living, we all gotta eat
but you're here alone there's no one to compete
If mercy's in business I wish it for you
More than just ashes when your dreams come true."

Finally, I believe the key to this layout being true lies in a specific lyric:

"Long distance runner what you holdin out for?
Caught in slow motion in your dash to the door
The flame from your stage has now spread to the floor
You gave all you got, why you wanta give more?"

This seems a bit strange in lyrical context, almost nonsensical. Why would the narrator-witness protagonist contradict themselves by describing a verbal encounter of pressuring the antagonist, and then immediately speak of holding the same antagonist back? The answer lies in the SEQUENCE of these events, not in the concurrent phrasing of them. Chapter 36 of Exodus describes how, once all of the necessary building materials were gathered, all willing Israelite craftsmen were called into duty, but [(36:3)"the people continued to bring freewill offerings morning after morning.(4)So all the skilled workers who were doing all the work on the sanctuary left what they were doing (5) and said to Moses, “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done.” (6) Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” And so the people were restrained from bringing more, (7) because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work."]

"The flame from your stage has now spread to the floor
You gave all you got, why you wanta give more?"

The preceding line:
"Long distance runner what you holdin out for?
Caught in slow motion in your dash to the door" is the final push or nudge of the protagonist upon the antagonist, which is directly juxtaposed with the final line of the verse, occurring perhaps an hour or more thereafter, as poetically the antagonist has undergone the right moral action, and the 'flame is ablaze'. At that point Moses calls for a cease-fire of donations in order to allow the craftsmen some room to breathe.

Though Hunter likely had other ideas and motifs involved with this song, as all the others, I am confident this portion on ideology and biblical history played a role. It is a joyous song, a meaningful and timeless lyric defining the possibility of moral righteousness with a bit of social boosting, a celebration of the otherness of the supreme Deity, and a tale very much human.

marye's picture
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heh

the spam is gone, but the testimonial lingers on. Great work, ddodd!

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@smsmsmsm

One of the Greatest Books on Earth.
Even the spam knows it, HA!
Great thread, xo!

Stardancer's picture
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I have the Lyric Book and Jerry's large Bio Book

I got the book for a birthday present from my boyfriend after Jerry died. I enjoyed reading about Jerry's birthday and even though I have just about every thing they dead recorded I found the book on the lyrics very injoyable.

marye's picture
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cool

glad to hear it!

WallsTV's picture
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ok its back

it's back..sorry for the alarm.

"I never meant to cause you any harm" BHIC

WallsTV's picture
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Holy Crap!

Maybe the server is down today 1-16-2011 but I was going to check out the site and it came up like this:

Whoops! Page not found.

404 Error - The page that you are looking for cannot be found.

Division Home
Art
Film and Digital Media
History of Art and Visual Culture
Music
Theater Arts

David please tell us you have the html coding and info for this site stored somewhere else, so at the least it could be put up online! Even with Facebook today you could do something, or free website hosting.

I'm so bummed!
WallsTV

"I never meant to cause you any harm" BHIC

Richard Vigeant's picture
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Joined: Jun 13 2007
Gift

Just received it from my daughter Sarah who found it in a HMV store in Mtl for CAN$10. Can't wait to discover what I missed when I did'nt really understand english.
Share the LOVE! Richard.

Warlock's picture
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Just a thanks for the

Just a thanks for the compilation. I remember back in maybe '94 or '95 checking that site out like it was religious. I've always referred to it still to this day. That site alone helped me expand my knowledge in the music by the Grateful Dead as well as the band members independent work and others as well.

Also, have the book and love it. Sometimes when I need to think deeply about something I'll look in the book to extend off of or just fro pleasure. The brilliant minds of writers stun me.

A dream we dreamed one afternoon long ago...
________________________
www.autoquoteresearch.com

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Thanks for the update

I was just thinking that the website has to be where I first dove into the Lyrics of the Grateful Dead and even sculled back around to an old poetry obsession.

I picked up the new paperback edition, for my road trip. I really love the fact that it is a full size edition! Nice work. I left my hardcover edition in kind hands.

Wondering about a bit of what seems to be a haze surrounding the Friend of the Devil creation.
The paperback edition of The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics seems to list Words by Robert Hunter and Music by Jerry Garcia and John Dawson,
A Box of Rain lists Garcia, Dawson, and Nelson (on page 369, left hand column, bottom of page, paperback edition.) That one is of course all lyrics by Robert Hunter.

I know, what is the advice???
when you get confused, just listen..............

(but still, I can't let the discrepancy go without at least trying to ask someone else..)

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The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics