Dang, more bad rock and roll news. The world lost one of its great poets this week. Robert Hunter, lyricist for the Grateful Dead died on Monday. This one hits especially close to home because I consider the Grateful Dead to be my third favorite band of all-time (after Ween and The Beatles).
From Rolling Stone’s remembrance:
Considered one of rock’s most ambitious and dazzling lyricists, Hunter was the literary counterpoint to the band’s musical experimentation. His lyrics — heard in everything from early Dead classics like “Dark Star” and “China Cat Sunflower” and proceeding through “Uncle John’s Band,” “Box of Rain,” “Scarlet Begonias,” and “Touch of Gray”— were as much a part of the band as Jerry Garcia’s singing and guitar.
From the same article, this anecdote about “Dark Star,” which is one of the Grateful Dead’s best songs:
Hunter would join the band at rehearsals and write lyrics. During one session, Hunter began writing lyrics to accompany an instrumental the band was working on; the result, “Dark Star,” was both a landmark for the band and also the official start of Hunter’s new role as the lyricist in residence. Hunter was even aware of the song’s significance at the time. He told Rolling Stone that a couple weeks after writing the first verse at the rehearsal, he was working on the second in the Panhandle, the narrow park at the base of Golden Gate Park, when a guy came up to him and offered him a hit of something. “I don’t remember if I took it or not, but I said, ‘I’m writing the second verse for the song called ‘Dark Star’ for the Grateful Dead — remember that,’” Hunter recalled. “I had a prescience about the whole thing at that point. Once I started believing in that band, I thought, we’re going to go the distance.”