Today would have been the 80th birthday of the Grateful Dead lyricist.
Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter was born on this date in 1941. Hunter’s primary writing partner was the late Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia. Among Hunter’s early contributions to the dead were the lyrics to “St. Stephen”, “China Cat Sunflower”, “Dark Star” and “Alligator”.
Classics that followed include “Uncle John’s Band”, “Truckin ‘”, “Friend Of The Devil”, “Black Muddy River”, “Eyes Of The World”, “Scarlet Begonias”, “Franklin’s Tower” and “Touch Of Gray, ”among others. Hunter, fueled by retsina wine, wrote the Grateful Dead classics“ Brokedown Palace ”,“ To Lay Me Down ”and“ Ripple ”on the same day in London in 1970.
Hunter and Garcia (posthumously) were recognized for their outstanding work with an inductee into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015. Hunter was 78 when he died on September 23, 2019. His legacy remains unprecedented in rock ‘ not’. roll, which includes the 1994 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction as a member of the Grateful Dead as the first non-performer to receive this prestigious honor.
In addition to collaborating with Garcia and other members of The Dead, Hunter has also contributed lyrics to artists such as Bob Dylan, Steve Kimock, The String Cheese Incident and Jim Lauderdale. Tonight Lauderdale will appear on the Shakedown Stream ahead of the show to discuss her longtime partnership with Hunter, which includes songs from Lauderdale’s upcoming new studio album, Hope.
Lauderdale also hosted the American Music Association Awards and Honors ceremony held at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on September 18, 2013. Hunter received the Lifetime Achievement Award that evening, while Lauderdale presented his friend and collaborator special recognition.
“There is a man whose roots run so deep,” Lauderdale said as he presented the award to Hunter. “That it’s almost unfathomable. But there is a key: his words. His words mean so much that they give the word new meaning. This means that by the time his words came out on records, he was already a master. He was there when everything started to change. And he’s been a big part of that change. He hit peak after peak and he took us up the mountain with him. He took us to new places and old places we forgot we had been before. Transported, pierced, transcended. And what a long, strange journey it has been. “
Hunter delivered an honest and heartfelt acceptance speech. He ended his brief remarks by sharing with the Ryman audience a quote from sci-fi author Ray Bradbury, stating:
“Love what you do and do what you love. Don’t listen to anyone else who tells you not to. You do what you want, what you love. Imagination should be the center of your life.
Hunter then performed one of the songs he wrote that fateful afternoon in London, delivering a solo rendition of “Ripple”. The performance was, at the time, Hunter’s first in several years.
Watch Lauderdale and Hunter’s speeches as well as the latter’s performance of “Ripple” at the 2013 Americana Music Association Awards & Honors below: