Remembering Grateful Dead Lyricist Robert Hunter


The Grateful Dead‘s lyrics represent some of the most beautiful, heartfelt, evocative turns of phrase in the American cultural canon. They’ve inspired t-shirts, bumper stickers, and tattoos. They’ve influenced creative minds across the spectrum, from novelists to artists to filmmakers. For many, these words have become the almost sacred text by which they live their lives, teaching them to spread love and kindness, and smile, smile, smile!

Robert Hunter, who was born on June 23rd, 1941, was the man responsible for the majority of the Dead’s beloved lyrics. After meeting and playing music with Jerry Garcia in the early ’60s, the two began to write together, with Hunter starting as Garcia’s lyricist and working up to being an officially accepted member of the band. When the Grateful Dead were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1994, Robert Hunter was included as a band member—the only non-performer ever honored in this fashion.

In tribute to his genius, we’ve compiled just a few of our favorite Hunter one-liners—from the beautiful to the psychedelic to the sentimental to the sagely:

“Don’t lend your hand to raise no flag atop no ship of fools”

“Every silver lining’s got a touch of grey”

“I set out running but I take my time / A friend of the Devil is a friend of mine”

“Like I told you, what I said, steal your face right off your head”

“There’s nothing you can hold for very long”

“We can share the women, we can share the wine / We can share what we got of yours ’cause we done shared all of mine”

“Thank you, for a real good time”

“Gone are the days we stopped to decide where we should go, we just ride”

“Once in a while, you can get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right”

“Just one thing I ask of you, just one thing for me / Please forget you know my name, my darling Sugaree”

“One way or another, this darkness got to give”

“Some folks trust to reason, others trust to might / I don’t trust to nothing, but I know it come out right”

“Sunlight splatters, dawn with answer, darkness shrugs and bids the day goodbye”

“One man gathers what another man spills”

“If you can abide it, let the hurdy gurdy play / Stranger ones have come by here before they flew away”

“Come to daddy on the inside straight / well I got no chance of losin’ this time”

“She comes skimmin’ through rays of violet, she can wade in a drop of dew”

“Strangers stopping strangers just to shake their hands”

“Let there be songs to fill the air”

“Sometimes the songs that we hear are just songs of our own”

“Mirror shatters in formless reflections of matter”

“Without love in a dream it will never come true”

“Nothing left to do but smile smile smile”

“Don’t tell me this town ain’t got no heart, you just gotta poke around”

“If you get confused, listen to the music play”

“Standing on the moon with nothing left to do / A lovely view of Heaven, but I’d rather be with you”

“Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been”

“When there was no dream of mine, you dreamed of me”

“The bottle was dusty, but the liquor was clean”

“All I know is something like a bird within her sang”

“Inspiration, move me brightly”

“Fare you well, fare you well, I love you more than words can tell / Listen to the river sing sweet songs to rock my soul”

Thank you for everything, Robert Hunter. May the four winds blow you safely home.

[Originally published on 6/23/17]

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