"If you tell the Truth, you don't have to remember anything"
-Mark Twain
"You realize, of course, that everything I say is horseshit." -Kurt Vonnegut

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Today Robert Hunter celebrates his 71st birthday.  Ironically him and the poet of "Auld Lang Syne" have something more than being the lyricist of a great New Year's songs (i.e., Sugar Magnolia).  Both poets were born Robert Burns.
Hunter and Garcia were long time friends.  They played in bluegrass bands in the early sixties and hung out in coffee shops where they read and enjoyed the same poems, books and songs.  Garcia was more serious about playing banjo and guitar, and eventually Hunter could not keep up with his passions and left the scene to become a human guinea pig for the CIA at UCLA.  Here Hunter was feed drugs like LSD and PCP, so the CIA could study the effects on humans and the possibility of governmental use of these drugs.
Hunter returned to the scene to tell Garcia and others the amazing effects LSD had on his mind and body, briefly joined the Church of Scientology and then went on a vision quest in New Mexico where he was contacted by Garcia.  Garcia had recently found lyrics that Hunter had written in a guitar case, and put them to music, birthing the song "Alligator."  Hunter sent Garcia two more lyrics which the Grateful Dead orchestrated resulting in "China Cat Sunflower" and "The Eleven."  The band originally paired these two songs together, but later changed "China Cat" from the key of E to the key of G to make it brighter and then paired it with "Rider".
The first song that Hunter collaborated with the Grateful Dead for was "Dark Star".  As the story goes, he wrote the first verse and chorus as the band experimented with its music.  Jerry told him that they needed a second verse, so Hunter went for a walk around the Haight.  He encountered a guy with whom he smoked a joint.  Hunter told guy that he was working on lyrics for a great song, and upon finishing the joint he went off and wrote the second verse.
Garcia and Hunter lived with their girlfriends in the same house for a period.  This was when the two had their most productive period, turning out songs like "Dire Wolf," "Ripple" and "Uncle John's Band."  These songs were all very much original songs but Hunter and Garcia's love of traditional music inspired the reworking of traditional story lines.  For instance, "Casey Jones" is a reworking of the Mississippi John Hurt song by the same name.
The "Terrapin Station" suite is another example of a little of this and a little bit of them.  The "Lady with a Fan" part is derived from a traditional song called "Lady of Carlisle."  In the song, a Soldier and a seaman are trying to woo the same lady.  In order to decide who deserves her love she throws her fan into a lion's den.  Whoever could retrieve the fan would then get her heart.  The second song in the suite was composed by Hunter in an empty house during an extreme lightning storm.  Supposedly at that same time Garcia was driving in his car when he composed a melody in his head.  He drove home and worked it out on his guitar.  The next day the two got together and put the music to lyrics.  Hunter continued writing more songs and poems in the Terrapin suite.  Some he released on his album "Jack O Roses."  The complete suite appears in his book "Box of Rain," where the reader will notice that a line of "Return to Terrapin" was reused in the song "Corrina."  The romantic lyric is, "There is no fear that lovers born will ever fail to meet."
Since the passing of Garcia, Hunter has written lyrics with Bob Dylan, Bruce Hornsby, Jim Lauderdale and the surviving members of the Dead.  He also released a series of short stories via email to subscribers that he called "Red Sky Fishing."
"Make music together that guitars never caught, to show that I love you, believe it or not." On this date in 1988, the Grateful Dead completed a four night run at Alpine Valley.  The show features the debut of "Believe It or Not" and "Blackbird."  The "Blackbird" gets potched twice, and you'll hear Brent Mydland laughing as Bobby plows through the rest of the song.  There is an electric "Morning Dew."  The crowd really ignites the energy of the song when Jerry cries "I thought I heard a young man moan this morning." Then instead of starting the solo at a two and building it to a ten, they start at a ten and go to eleven.
The other nights of the run can also be found on archive.org and the first nights second set was remastered and is an A+ audience recording.

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