JimCT

RIP Robert Hunter

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Longtime songwriting partner with Jerry Garcia and lyricist for the Grateful Dead. So many tunes to thank him for. 

Grateful Dead (@GratefulDead) Tweeted:
"Fare you well, Mr. Hunter. We love you more than words can tell..." @lemieuxdavid

 

 

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If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung
Would you hear my voice come through the music
Would you hold it near as it were your own?

It's a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken
Perhaps they're better left unsung
I don't know, don't really care
Let there be songs to fill the air

Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow

Reach out your hand if your cup be empty
If your cup is full may it be again
Let it be known there is a fountain
That was not made by the hands of men

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

You who choose to lead must follow
But if you fall you fall alone
If you should stand then who's to guide you?
If I knew the way I would take you home

  • Love Love Love! 1

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When the last rose of summer pricks my finger,
And the hot sun chills me to the bone,
When I can't hear the song for the singer,
And I can't tell my pillow from a stone,
I will walk alone by the black muddy river,
And sing me a song of my own,
I will walk alone by the black muddy river,
And sing me a song of my own.

When the last bolt of sunshine hits the mountain,
And the stars start to splatter in the sky,
When the moon hits the southwest horizon,
With the scream of an eagle on the fly,
I will walk alone by the black muddy river,
And listen to the ripples as they moan,
I will walk alone by the black muddy river,
And sing me a song of my own.

Black muddy river, roll on forever,
I don't care how deep or wide, if you've got another side,
Roll muddy river, roll muddy river, black muddy river, roll.

When it seems like the night will last forever,
And there's nothing left to do but count the years,
When the strings of my heart begin to sever,
And stones fall from my eyes instead of tears,
I will walk alone, by the black muddy river,
And dream me a dream of my own,
I will walk alone, by the black muddy river,
And sing me a song of my own, sing me a song of my own.

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Look out of any window
Any morning, any evening, any day
Maybe the sun is shining
Birds are winging or
Rain is falling from a heavy sky,
What do you want me to do,
To do for you to see you through?
For this is all a dream we dreamed
One afternoon long ago
Walk out of any doorway
Feel your way, feel your way
Like the day before
Maybe you'll find direction
Around some corner
Where it's been waiting to meet you,
What do you want me to do,
To watch for you while you're sleeping?
Well please don't be surprised
When you find me dreaming too

Look into any eyes
You find by you, you can see
Clear through to another day
Maybe been seen before
Through other eyes on other days
While going home,
What do you want me to do,
To do for you to see you through?
It's all a dream we dreamed
One afternoon long ago

Walk into splintered sunlight
Inch your way through dead dreams
To another land
Maybe you're tired and broken
Your tongue is twisted
With words half spoken
And thoughts unclear
What do you want me to do
To do for you to see you through
A box of rain will ease the pain
And love will see you through

Just a box of rain,
Wind and water,
Believe it if you need it,
If you don't just pass it on
Sun and shower,
Wind and rain,
In and out the window
Like a moth before a flame

And it's just a box of rain
I don't know who put it there
Believe it if you need it
Or leave it if you dare
And it's just a box of rain
Or a ribbon for your hair
Such a long long time to be gone
And a short time to be there

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As I was walkin' 'round Grosvenor Square
Not a chill to the winter but a nip to the air
From the other direction, she was calling my eye
It could be an illusion, but I might as well try, might as well try

She had rings on her fingers and bells on her shoes
And I knew without askin' she was into the blues
She wore scarlet begonias tucked into her curls
I knew right away she was not like other girls, other girls

In the heat of the evening when the dealing got rough
She was too pat to open and too cool to bluff
I picked up my matches and was closing the door
I had one of those flashes I'd been there before, been there before

Well, I ain't always right but I've never been wrong
Seldom turns out the way it does in a song
Once in a while you get shown the light
In the strangest of places if you look at it right

Ain't nothing wrong with the way she moves
Scarlet begonias or a touch of the blues
And there's nothing wrong with the look that's in her eyes
Had to learn the hard way to let her pass by, let her pass by

Wind in the willow's playin' "Tea For Two"
The sky was yellow and the sun was blue
Strangers stoppin' strangers just to shake their hand
Everybody's playing in the heart of gold band, heart of gold band

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A great, great lyricist. 

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 Gone are the broken eyes we saw through in dreams.

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Most drunken nights of my youth ended up with White Castle and this....Now they're both gone :(

For my personal taste in music ....The mixing of the piano on Europe '72 was amazing.

RIP Robert.

 

 

 

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https://www.newyorker.com/culture/postscript/robert-hunter-gave-the-grateful-dead-its-voice

Robert Hunter Gave the Grateful Dead Its Voice

By Nick Paumgarten

October 1, 2019

Robert Hunter gave the Grateful Dead’s psychedelic sound quicksilver conceptual coherence and old-timey cred.

April Fools’ Day, 1986. I had just turned seventeen and was on the floor of the Providence Civic Center. The Grateful Dead. I’d worked my way up to a spot about twenty feet from the lip of the stage and found myself within winking distance of Jerry Garcia, an immensity in a red T-shirt that hung halfway to his knees. (“Trouble ahead, Jerry in red,” the Deadheads liked to say.) I’d never stood so close. I could see the pearl inlay in the frets of his guitar neck and the ghostly pallor of his skin. Three months later, ravaged by opiates and ill health, he would fall into a diabetic coma, an experience that he’d later recall as being “one of furious activity and tremendous struggle in a sort of futuristic, space-ship vehicle with insectoid presences.” But on this night, despite the power of his guitar, and of his growling tenor and still palpable charisma, it seemed that he might die any minute.

He was playing a song called “Black Peter,” a bluesy dirge from the band’s 1970 album “Workingman’s Dead.” It is a first-person account of a hard-luck pauper on his deathbed: “One more day I find myself alive / Tomorrow maybe go beneath the ground.” Garcia, though only forty-three, had deteriorated into the title role, so that a song that had once seemed evocative, almost actorly—an imagined character conveyed by a man of prodigious gifts—now seemed downright real. Jerry was Peter. The song ends by shifting into the point of view of people thronging to watch him die. In Providence, Garcia sang, with some gruff delicacy, in my apparent direction: “Take a look at poor Peter / He’s lying in pain / Now let’s go run and see.” After moaning the words “run and see” a few times, he turned away from the microphone with something like disgust. So this is what we were doing, all of us who’d crammed into that arena, antic with chemicals and adulation: we’d run to see poor Peter, to gawk at the pain. This may seem melodramatic to you now, but the moment was more than a callow teen-ager, mostly unacquainted with death or real pain, could bear. I was transfixed, and ashamed.

The song’s lyrics, like those to most of the band’s original songs (and certainly the best ones), had been written by Robert Hunter, who died last week, at the age of seventy-eight. He never performed with the band but provided it with the universe of images, ideas, and tales—and all the one-liners, couplets, anthems, and puzzlers—that gave some quicksilver conceptual coherence and old-timey cred to the Dead’s shambling psychedelic Dixieland. He grounded it, if you can say that, in a phantasmagoric reiteration of American folk legend: drifters, thieves, rounders, jailbirds, horndogs, vigilantes, and roustabouts. “Truckin’,” “Ripple,” “Friend of the Devil,” “Stella Blue,” “Uncle John’s Band”—all written by Hunter. There were very few conventional, charting hits but lots of home runs.

Hunter, who had known Garcia since their late teens, gave the singer a songbook that would come to suit or even re-create him, as he evolved and then went to pieces—and that somehow also involved or even implicated the audience in its ever more suffocating relationship with the singer they’d come running to see. The songs were about Garcia, and they were about you. (“It belongs to you, honey,” the singer Donna Jean Godchaux says, when she speaks of the songbook in Amir Bar-Lev’s documentary “Long Strange Trip,” from 2017.) Garcia was in his twenties when he first sang “Black Peter.” An old soul already, but still young. By 1986, he had the bearing of an oracle, a voice from beyond the grave. This effect was in many ways an invention of Hunter’s, though it’s never been clear to me how intentional it was. It may have been that Hunter’s poetry just happened to speak to (and for) Garcia. Garcia often said that he felt silly singing lines that were too preachy, too on-the-nose. Hunter’s elliptical, allusive style suited him. “Hunter’s very good about writing into my beliefs,” Garcia said. “He understands the way I think.”

Hunter was born Robert Burns and had a peripatetic childhood, including some time in a foster home. He took the surname of a stepfather. He had a flirtation, in the sixties, with Scientology and a problem, for a while, with speed. He was a seeker, a restless soul, an outsider. A friend of mine, on hearing of Hunter’s passing, told me that, in some ways, by his reckoning, Hunter had been dead all along. The man seemed to know something about death. After Garcia awoke from his coma, in 1986, Hunter had a new song for him, called “Black Muddy River.” Hunter, who rarely explained where his songs came from, told the writer Steve Silberman, in 1992, that the inspiration for it was his recurring dream of a “black, lusterless, slow-flowing Stygian river. . . . It’s vast and it’s hopeless. It’s death, with the absence of the soul. It’s my horror vision, and when I come out of that dream I do anything I can to counter it.” The lone Grateful Dead hit to come out of the post-coma period was a deceptively jaunty number, composed a half-decade earlier, called “Touch of Grey,” which Hunter worked up while suffering a wicked cocaine hangover. Hunter knew that cocaine was diabolical, and identified its arrival on the scene (around the time he wrote “Black Peter”) as the forbidden fruit to their Eden, but he didn’t always abstain. It may be that some of the wistful we-had-something-special-but-now-it’s-gone undertones of Hunter’s post-sixties songs—the golden-era stuff of “Workingman’s Dead” and “American Beauty,” along with a slew of beloved songs the Dead never recorded in a studio, such as “Tennessee Jed,” “Brown-Eyed Women,” “Wharf Rat,” and “Ramble On Rose”—owe something to the regret that gnawed at Hunter over the effects of cocaine on the whole enterprise.

Hunter, who had a singular, awkward singing style, pursued a fitful career as a solo performer, too, and collaborated with other ace songwriters, including Jim Lauderdale and Bob Dylan. (And it’s not all darkness: he wrote a love song for Lauderdale and Ralph Stanley called “Joy, Joy, Joy.”) But it’s the ventriloquism with Garcia that earned him a place beside them. He and Garcia met in 1961—of all things at a performance of “Damn Yankees.” They were fellow-folkies who considered themselves beatniks, though they were too young to be beats and ultimately too old to be hippies. For a while, they performed together, as Bob and Jerry. When Garcia formed the Grateful Dead and began looking for original material, Hunter, who’d served as a guinea pig in the C.I.A.’s Bay Area experiments with LSD, sent him a few songs he’d written, acid-infused wordplay bordering on nonsense. The Dead used them (“China Cat Sunflower,” “St. Stephen,” “Alligator”) and then invited him to join the band as a lyricist. He gave them “Dark Star,” a launching pad for decades of improvisational exploration.

In “Long Strange Trip,” there’s a sequence in which Bar-Lev, after years of trying to get to Hunter, is granted an audience backstage after a solo gig. Hunter was always elusive and notoriously averse to discussing the meanings or sources of his compositions (though he was insistent about the songwriter’s claim to royalties and credit, as the Internet undermined each). In the film, Hunter recites the lyrics to “Dark Star” (“Dark star crashes, pouring its light into ashes / Reason tatters, the forces tear loose from the axis / Searchlight casting for faults in the clouds of delusion / Shall we go, you and I while we can / Through the transitive nightfall of diamonds?”) and says, “What’s unclear about that?” Then he kicks Bar-Lev out of his dressing room.

Last week, Bar-Lev, who had interviewed me for “Long Strange Trip,” sent me a link to a long reply that Hunter wrote, in 1996, to a scholarly essay that called his lyrics meaningless. “Meaning is often a subterfuge to distract the listener’s attention from a writer’s lack of multiple resources,” Hunter writes. Then he presents an exegesis of his 1975 song “Franklin’s Tower,” which became a great crowd-pleaser, in Garcia’s hands. Hunter cites, among some of his references, Ben Franklin, the Constitution, Pete Seeger, the Bible, E. E. cummings, Bonnie Dobson, an Eastertide anthem called “Roll Away the Stone,” and the birth of his son.

“Well, now that you know what I meant by it, it’s no great shakes, is it?” Hunter concludes. “Mystery gone, the magician’s trick told, the gluttony for ‘meaning’ temporarily satisfied, one can now take issue with my intent and avoid the song itself.” Run and see.

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I never heard of him until he died.............And, I was just seeing headlines and I'm like Was he in the Dead or not?..............I've since learned more about him.

But, is there anybody else besides him and Bernie Taupin that were strictly lyricists and didn't play with the band? 

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Peter Sinfeld comes to mind, though it could be argued he was a member of King Crimson. He wrote lyrics and ran their light show. I think he was also their art director. 

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