Obituary: Robert Hunter, lyricist (78)

Robert Hunter

The master of lyrics, Robert Hunter, poet and writer provided the Grateful Dead with many of their vivid and enduring lyrics

28 February 2022 | James Porteous | Clipper Media News

Originally Published: HAWKINS BAY

24 September 2019 |DAVID BROWN JON BLISTEIN| Rolling Stone |Additional sources

Row Jimmy, Row
  • ROW JIMMY Garcia/Hunter[Verse 1]
    Julie catch a rabbit by his hair
    Come back stepping, like to walk on air
    Get back home where you belong
    And don’t you run off no moreDon’t hang your head, let the two time roll
    Grass shack nailed to a pine wood floor
    Ask the time, baby, I don’t know
    Come back later, gonna let it show[Chorus]
    And I say row, Jimmy, row
    Gonna get there?
    I don’t know
    Seems a common way to go
    Get down, row, row, row
    Row row[Verse 2]
    Here’s a half dollar if you dare
    Double twist when you hit the air
    Look at Julie, down below
    The levee doing the do-pas-o[Chorus]
    And I say row, Jimmy, row
    Gonna get there, I don’t know
    Seems a common way to go
    Get down and row
    Row, row, row, row[Verse 3]
    Broken heart don’t feel so bad
    You ain’t got half of what you thought you had
    Rock you, baby, to and fro
    Not too fast, and not too slow[Chorus]
    And I say row, Jimmy, row
    Gonna get there, I don’t know
    Seems a common way to go
    Get down and row
    Row, row, row, row[Bridge]
    That’s the way it’s been in town
    Ever since they tore the jukebox down
    Two-bit piece don’t buy no more
    Not so much as it done before[Chorus]
    And I say row, Jimmy, row
    Gonna get there, I don’t know
    Seems a common way to go
    Get down and row
    Row, row, row, row 

Robert Hunter, the poet and writer who provided the Grateful Dead with many of their vivid and enduring lyrics, died Monday night. He was 78. No cause of death was provided.

“It is with great sadness we confirm our beloved Robert passed away yesterday night,” Hunter’s family announced in a statement. “He died peacefully at home in his bed, surrounded by love. His wife Maureen was by his side holding his hand. For his fans that have loved and supported him all these years, take comfort in knowing that his words are all around us, and in that way his is never truly gone.  In this time of grief please celebrate him the way you all know how, by being together and listening to the music. Let there be songs to fill the air.”

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.

Born Robert Burns in California in 1941, Hunter met Garcia in 1961 at a local production of the musical Damn Yankees, where they were introduced by Hunter’s ex-girlfriend, and Garcia’s then-girlfriend, Diane Huntsburger.

The two didn’t immediately hit it off, their friendship took root a couple nights later when they saw each other at a local coffeehouse. Just one year apart in age (Garcia was 18 and Hunter 19 at the time they met), their bond was forged partly through the shared experience of losing a father — Garcia through death, Hunter through divorce.

While Hunter and Garcia played in a few bluegrass bands together, the former passed on an offer to join Garcia’s pre-Grateful Dead jug band to focus instead on writing. At Stanford, Hunter took part in an early LSD experiment (“I had a romping good time,” he recalled) and dabbled in Scientology, but eventually he began to struggle with speed and meth, prompting him to leave the Bay Area for New Mexico. There, Hunter began writing more songs — including future Dead classics “St. Stephen,” “China Cat Sunflower” and “Alligator — which he sent to Garcia, who encouraged him to return to San Francisco and join the Dead as their lyricist.

Back in the Bay Area, 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 Stonethat 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.”

The role completely recast Hunter’s life goals. “What we were doing was almost sacred. The spirit of the times. … there was a time I felt this was the way the world would be going in a spiritual way, and we were an important part of that. I didn’t feel we were a pop music band. I wanted to write a whole different sort of music.” He told RS that his favorite line was in “Ripple: “Let it be known there is a fountain that was not made by the hands of men.”

As the Dead’s lyricist, Hunter would hand stacks of songs to Garcia who would go through them, pick the ones he liked and offer Hunter fairly blunt notes and instructions (for instance, Garcia didn’t want anything with expressly political themes). Sometimes Hunter would write lyrics to whatever song the Dead were working on, like “Uncle John’s Band,” which was famously based off a 40-minute instrumental tape the Dead gave him.

Other times, songs would just pour out of him, like a stunningly fruitful day in London where, with the help of a bottle of Retsina, he wrote “Ripple,” “Brokedown Palace” and “To Lay Me Down.”

He also often found inspiration in unlikely places: He wrote “Playing In the Band” to the sound of the water pump on Mickey Hart’s ranch, while “Fire on the Mountain” was also written at the ranch, inspired by a literal fire on the mountain in the distance. The Dead would then craft the music around Hunter’s lyrics, often fine-tuning songs on the road. With “Truckin’” for instance, Hunter recalled, “It took me a couple months to write and it maybe took ’em about half an hour to put it together.”

Hunter was also a proudly irascible member of the Dead scene, sometimes nixing requests to use Dead songs in commercials or similar licensing deals. He rarely gave interviews. “There are things I have to do, like get a good picture, and I don’t take a good picture,” he told Rolling Stone in 2013. “I don’t know if it’s because I’m ugly or the camera doesn’t like me.

Hunter and Garcia maintained their prolific partnership and friendship well into the Seventies and Eighties, producing numerous classics like “Touch of Grey” and “Standing on the Moon” even as Garcia struggled with addiction.

“[F]rom many nights of raving all night the way people do in their early twenties, he knew me real well and I knew him real well, and I remember his girlfriend at that time, she said it was hard to tell where he ended and I started up,” Hunter recalled. “We were brothers in that sense. I loved that band until I didn’t give a damn about ’em, I’ll say that. I really just thought they were the cat’s whiskers.”

Like everyone in the Dead community, Hunter was shaken by Garcia’s death, although he told RS he felt it wasn’t completely unexpected:  “I always saw it coming, but seeing it coming is not the same as seeing it. I didn’t get the feeling he intended to live for very long. There are things about Jerry I just don’t understand. Or maybe am not capable of knowing.”

Hunter’s work didn’t end with Garcia’s death. In the years after, he wrote songs with Elvis Costello, Bruce Hornsby, country singer Jim Lauderdale and Dead drummer Mickey Hart. His best-known collaborator after Garcia, though, was Bob Dylan. Starting with “Silvio,” the two co-wrote many songs on Dylan’s Together Through Life in 2009.

“He’s got a way with words and I do too,” Dylan told Rolling Stone. “We both write a different type of song than what passes today for songwriting.” Hunter told RS:  “He’s the only guy I work with who I give the liberty to change things. After all, he is who he is.”

Hunter, who is survived by his wife Maureen (whom he married in 1982), recorded several albums in his own and occasionally toured. In 2013, he went on his last solo tour as a result of medical bills; the year before he had had a spinal abscess and, by his own admission, hit the road to help pay his medical bills.

“I’m always glad that people are still out there performing the stuff, and the closer they are to the origination, the better,” he told RS in 2013. “There will be a time when there aren’t any of the originators left.”

Original Link: Robert Hunter, Grateful Dead Collaborator and Lyricist, Dead at 78

Lyricist for Grateful Dead

As Jerry Garcia’s writing partner in the Grateful Dead, lyricist Robert Hunter (born June 23, 1941) shared in the creation of such classic Dead fare as “Casey Jones,” “China Cat Sunflower,” “St. Stephen,” “Truckin’,” “Dark Star,” “Friend of the Devil,” “Uncle John’s Band,” “Casey Jones,” “Sugar Magnolia” and “Touch of Grey.”

But Hunter’s partnership with Dead co-founder Garcia dates back to their initial pairing as performers in an early 1960s folk duo. They had met in 1961 in Palo Alto (Garcia’s first concert was with Hunter, with each earning $5), and Hunter also played in several of Garcia’s early bluegrass bands.

Hunter rejoined Garcia in the Grateful Dead in the fall of 1967, when he wrote the first verse of “Dark Star” at a band rehearsal. The composition is now listed among The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll,” and is also No. 57 on Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time.” “Truckin’,” too, has been singled out, by the U.S. Library of Congress, which cited it as a national treasure in 1997.
“Friend of the Devil,” from the Dead’s 1970 album American Beauty, is another significant Hunter-Garcia copyright in that it has been covered by Bob DylanTom Petty, The Counting Crows, Elvis Costello, Lyle Lovett and John Mayer.

Hunter’s contributions to the Dead’s songs reflected his focus on being a writer and poet—and he went on to publish several poetry books. Though he never played on stage with the Dead, he was indeed a member and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the band in 1994 as the only non-performing band member ever to be included.

Hunter wrote the lyrics to all but a few of Garcia’s songs. He has also has collaborated on songs with Bob Dylan, Jim Lauderdale, Bruce Hornsby, and Cesar Rosas of Los Lobos, as well as the Dead’s Mickey Hart, in addition to releasing his own solo albums.

He is survived by his wife Maureen (whom he married in 1982).

Workingman’s Dead (1970)[edit]

  • See here how everything leads up to this day. And it’s just like any other day that’s ever been. Sun going up and then, the sun, it going down. Shine through my window, and my friends they come around.
    • “Black Peter”
  • Well, the first days are the hardest days, don’t you worry anymore. When life looks like Easy Street there is danger at your door.
    • “Uncle John’s Band”
  • Ain’t no time to hate, barely time to wait
    • “Uncle John’s Band”
  • Nothing’s for certain, It could always go wrong, Come in when it’s raining, Go on out when it’s gone, We could have us a high time, Living the good life, Well I know
    • “High Time”
  • Trouble ahead, Trouble behind, and you know that notion just crossed my mind
    • “Casey Jones”

American Beauty (1970)[edit]

  • 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”
  • 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
    • “Ripple”
  • Lovers come and go, the river roll, roll, roll.
    • “Brokedown Palace”
  • Such a long, long time to be gone, and a short time to be here.
    • “Box of Rain”
  • In the secret space of dreams, Where I dreaming lay amazed, When the secrets all are told, And the petals all unfold. When there was no dream of mine, You dreamed of me
    • “Attics of My Life”
  • Sometimes the light’s all shining on me, Other times I can barely see, Lately it occurs to me, What a long strange trip it’s been…
    • “Truckin’”

Wake of the Flood (1973)[edit]

  • It seems like all this life was just a dream
    • “Stella Blue”
  • Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world, but the heart has its beaches, its homeland, and thoughts of its own. Wake now, discover that you are the song that the morning brings, but the heart has its seasons its evenings, and songs of its own
    • “Eyes of the World”
  • Sometimes we live no particular way but our own
    • “Eyes of the World”

From the Mars Hotel (1974)[edit]

  • I like your smile but I ain’t your type, Don’t shake the tree when the fruit ain’t ripe
    • “Loose Lucy”
  • Once in a while, you get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if you look at it right.
    • “Scarlet Begonias”
  • I won’t slave for beggar’s pay, likewise gold and jewels, but I would slave to learn the way, to sink your ship of fools.
    • “Ship of Fools”

Blues for Allah (1975)[edit]

  • In another time’s forgotten space, your eyes looked through your mother’s face, Wildflower seed on the sand and stone, may the four winds blow you safely home. Roll away … the dew
    • “Franklin’s Tower”
  • Crippled but free, I was blind all the time I was learning to see.
    • “Help on the Way”

Terrapin Station (1977)[edit]

  • Let my inspiration flow, in token lines suggesting rhythm, that will not forsake me, till my tale is told and done
    • “Lady With a Fan”
  • The storyteller makes no choice, soon you will not hear his voice, his job is to shed light, and not to master
    • “Lady With a Fan”
  • Inspiration, move me brightly, light the song with sense and color, hold away despair
    • “Terrapin Station”
  • While you were gone, these spaces filled with darkness. The obvious was hidden. With nothing to believe in. The compass always points to Terrapin.
    • “At A Siding”

Go to Heaven (1980)[edit]

  • Ain’t nobody messin’ with you but you
    • “Althea”
  • There are things you can replace, and others you cannot. The time has come to weigh those things, this space is getting hot.
    • “Althea”

Built to Last (1989)[edit]

  • But never give your love, my friend, Unto a foolish heart
    • “Foolish Heart”
  • There are times when you get hit upon, Try hard but you cannot give. Other times you’d gladly part, With what you need to live
    • “Built to Last”
  • Don’t waste the breath to save your face, When you have done your best, And even more is asked of you, Let fate decide the rest.
    • “Built to Last”
  • BROKEDOWN PALACEFare you well, my honey
    Fare you well, my only true one
    All the birds that were singing
    Are flown, except you aloneGonna leave this brokedown palace
    On my hands and my knees, I will roll, roll, roll
    Make myself a bed by the waterside
    In my time, in my time, I will roll, roll, rollIn a bed, in a bed
    By the waterside I will lay my head
    Listen to the river sing sweet songs
    To rock my soulRiver gonna take me, sing me sweet and sleepy
    Sing me sweet and sleepy all the way back home
    It’s a far gone lullaby sung many years ago
    Mama, Mama, many worlds I’ve come since I first left homeGoing home, going home
    By the waterside I will rest my bones
    Listen to the river sing sweet songs
    To rock my soulGoing to plant a weeping willow
    On the bank’s green edge it will grow, grow, grow
    Singing a lullaby beside the water
    Lovers come and go, the river will roll, roll, rollFare you well, fare you well
    I love you more than words can tell
    Listen to the river sing sweet songs
    To rock my soul 
  • BROWN-EYED WOMENGone are the days when the ox fall down (note a) Take up the yoke and plough the fields around Gone are the days when the ladies said “please Gentle Jack Jones won’t you come to me” (note b)Brown-eyed women and red grenadine The bottle was dusty but the liquor was clean Sound of the thunder with the rain pouring down And it looks like the old man’s getting onNineteen twenty when he stepped to the bar Drank to the dregs of the whiskey jar Nineteen thirty when the wall caved in He made his way selling red-eyed gin (note c)Delilah Jones was the mother of twins Two times over and the rest were sins Raised eight boys, only I turned bad (note d) Didn’t get the lickings that the other ones hadTumble-down shack in Big Foot County Snowed so hard that the roof caved in Delilah Jones went to meet her God And the old man never was the same againDaddy made whiskey and he made it well Cost two dollars and it burned like hell (note e) I cut hickory just to fire the still Drink down a bottle and you’re ready to kill (note f)And it looks like the old man’s getting on
  • CANDYMANCome all you pretty women with your hair a-hanging down
    Open up your windows, ’cause the Candyman’s in town
    Come on boys and gamble
    Roll those laughing bones
    Seven come eleven, boys, I’ll take your money homeLook out, look out, the Candyman
    Here he comes and he’s gone again
    Pretty lady ain’t got no friend
    Till the Candyman comes around againI come in from Memphis where I leant to talk the jive
    When I get back to Memphis, be one less man alive
    Good morning, Mister Benson
    I see you’re doing well
    If I had me a shotgun, I’d blow you straight to hellCome on boys and wager, if you have got the mind
    If you’ve got a dollar, boys, lay it on the line
    Hand me my old guitar
    Pass the whiskey round
    Won’t you tell everybody you meet that the Candyman’s in townvLook out, look out, the Candyman
    Here he come and he’s gone again
    [repeat and fade] 
  • CASEY JONESDriving that train, high on cocaine
    Casey Jones you’d better watch your speed
    Trouble ahead, trouble behind
    And you know that notion just crossed my mind (note 1)This old engine makes it on time
    Leaves Central Station ’bout a quarter to nine
    Hits River Junction at seventeen to
    At a quarter to ten you know it’s travelling againTrouble ahead, the lady in red
    Take my advice you’d be better off dead
    Switchman’s sleeping, train Hundred and Two
    Is on the wrong track and headed for youTrouble with you is the trouble with me
    Got two good eyes but we still don’t see
    Come round the bend, you know it’s the end
    The fireman screams and the engine just gleams
  • CHINA CAT SUNFLOWERLook for a while at the China Cat Sunflower
    proud-walking jingle in the midnight sun
    Copper-dome bodhi drip a silver kimono
    like a crazy-quilt star gown
    through a dream night wind(note 1)
    China cat
    China cat
    China cat
    China catKrazy Kat peeking through a lace bandana
    like a one-eyed Cheshire
    like a diamond-eyed jack
    A leaf of all colors plays
    a golden string fiddle
    to a double-e waterfall over my backComic book colors on a violin river
    crying Leonardo words
    from out a silk trombone
    I rang a silent bell
    beneath a shower of pearls
    in the eagle winged palace
    of the queen Chinee
    • CUMBERLAND BLUESI can’t stay here much longer, Melinda
      The sun is getting high
      I can’t help you with your troubles
      If you won’t help with mine
      I gotta get down
      I gotta get down
      Gotta get down to the mineYou keep me up just one more night
      I can’t stop here no more
      Little Ben clock says quarter to eight
      You kept me up till four
      I gotta get down
      I gotta get down
      Or I can’t work there no moreLotta poor man make a five dollar bill
      Will keep him happy all the time
      Some other fellow’s making nothing at all
      And you can hear him cryCan I go, buddy, can I go down
      Take your shift at the mine
      Gotta get down to the Cumberland mine
      That’s where I mainly spend my timeMake good money, five dollars a day
      If I made any more I might move awayLotta poor man got the Cumberland Blues
      He can’t win for losing
      Lotta poor man got to walk the line
      Just to pay his union duesI don’t know now, I just don’t know
      If I’m going back again
      I don’t know now, I just don’t know
      If I’m going back again 
    • DARK STARDark star crashes (note a)
      Pouring its light into ashes
      Reason tatters
      The forces tear loose from the axis
      Searchlight casting
      For faults in the clouds of delusionShall we go, you and I, while we can?
      Through the transitive nightfall of diamondsMirror shatters
      In formless reflections of matter
      Glass hand dissolving
      To ice petal flowers revolving
      Lady in velvet
      Recedes in the nights of goodbyeShall we go, you and I, while we can
      Through the transitive nightfall of diamonds?
  • DEALSince it cost a lot to win (note 1)
    And even more to lose
    You and me bound to spend some time
    Wondering what to chooseGoes to show, you don’t ever know
    Watch each card you play and play it slow
    Wait until that deal come round
    Don’t you let that deal go down, no, noI’ve been gambling here abouts
    For ten good solid years
    If I told you all that went down
    It would burn off both your earsSince you poured the wine for me
    And tightened up my shoes
    I hate to leave you sitting there
    Composing lonesome bluesWait until that deal come round
    Don’t you let that deal go down
    [repeat etc] 
  • DIRE WOLFIn the timbers of Fennario the wolves are running round (note 1)
    The winter was so hard and cold, froze ten feet ‘neath the groundDon’t murder me, I beg of you don’t murder me
    Please don’t murder meI sat down to supper, ’twas a bottle of red whiskey
    I said my prayers and went to bed, that’s the last they saw of meWhen I awoke, the dire wolf, six hundred pounds of sin
    Was grinning at my window, all I said was “Come on in”The wolf came in, I got my cards, we sat down for a game
    I cut my deck to the queen of spades but the cards were all the same (note 2)In the back-wash of Fennario, the black and bloody mire
    The dire wolf collects his due while the boys sing round the fireEYES OF THE WORLDRight outside this lazy summer home (note 1)
    You ain’t got time to call your soul a critic, no
    Right outside the lazy gate
    Of winter’s summer home
    Wondering where the nuthatch winter’s
    Wings a mile long
    Just carried the bird awayWake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world
    But the heart has its beaches, its homeland and thoughts of its own
    Wake now discover that you are the song that the morning brings
    But the heart has its seasons, its evenings and songs of its ownThere comes a redeemer and he slowly, too, fades away
    And there follows his wagon behind him that’s loaded with clay
    And the seeds that were silent all burst into bloom and decay
    And night comes so quiet, its close on the heels of the daySometimes we live no particular way but our own
    And sometimes we visit your country and live in your home
    Sometimes we ride on your horses, sometimes we walk alone
    Sometimes the songs that we hear are just songs of our ownFRIEND OF THE DEVILI lit out from Reno, I was trailed by twenty hounds (note a)
    Didn’t get to sleep that night till the morning came aroundSet out running but I take my time
    A friend of the devil is a friend of mine
    If I get home before daylight I just might get some sleep
    TonightI ran into the devil babe, he loaned me twenty bills
    I spent the night in Utah in a cave up in the hillsI ran down to the levee but the devil caught me there (note b)
    He took my twenty dollar bill and vanished in the airGot two reasons why I cry away each lonely night
    The first one’s named sweet Anne Marie and she’s my heart’s delight
    Second one is prison baby, sheriff’s on my trail (note c)
    And if he catches up with me I’ll spend my life in jailGot a wife in Chino babe, and one in Cherokee
    First one says she’s got my child but it don’t look like me
    • HE’S GONERat in a drain ditch, caught on a limb
      You know better, but I know himLike I told you, like I said
      Steal your face right off your headAnd now he’s gone
      Now he’s gone, Lord he’s gone
      He’s gone
      Like a steam locomotive rolling down the track
      He’s gone, gone, and nothing’s gonna bring him back
      He’s goneNine mile skid on a ten mile ride
      Hot as a pistol but cool insideCat on a tin roof, dogs in a pile
      Nothing left to do but smile, smile, smileGoing where the wind don’t blow so strange
      Maybe off on some high cold mountain range (note 1)
      Lost one round but the price wasn’t anything
      A knife in the back and more of the sameSame old
      Rat in a drain ditch, caught on a limb
      You know better, but I know himLike I told you, like I said
      Steal your face right off your headOoh, nothing’s gonna bring him back
      Ooh, nothing’s gonna bring him back
      Ooh, nothing’s gonna bring him back 
    • HELP ON THE WAYParadise waits On the crest of a wave her angels in flame
      She has no pain
      Like a child she is pure, she is not to blame
      Poised for flight, wings spread bright
      Spring from night into the sun
      Don’t stop to run
      She can fly like a lie, she can’t be outdoneTell me the cost
      I can pay, let me go, tell me love is not lost
      Sell everything
      Without love day to day, insanity’s king
      I will pay, day by day
      Anyway, lock, bolt and key
      Crippled but free
      I was blind all the time I was learning to seeHelp on the way
      Well I know only this, I’ve got you today
      Don’t fly away
      ‘Cause I love what I love and I want it that way
      I will stay, one more day
      Like I say, honey, it’s you
      Making it too
      Without love in the dream it’ll never come true 
    • HERE COMES SUNSHINEWake of the flood, laughing water, forty nine
      Get out the pans, don’t just stand there dreaming, get out the way
      Get out the wayHere comes sunshine
      Here comes sunshineLine up a long shot, maybe try it two times, maybe more
      Good to know you got shoes to wear, when you find the floor
      Why hold out for moreAsking you nice now, keep the mother rolling, one more time
      Been down before, you just don’t have to go no more
      No more
      • JACK STRAW[All] 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
        Keep on rolling, just a mile to go
        Keep on rolling, my old buddy, you’re moving much too slow[Jerry] I just jumped the watchman right outside the fence
        Took his rings, four bucks in change, ain’t that heaven sent
        [Bob]
        Hurts my ears to listen, Shannon, burns my eyes to see
        Cut down a man in cold blood, Shannon, might as well be me[Bob]
        We used to play for silver now we play for life (note 2)
        And one’s for sport, and one’s for blood at the point of a knife
        And now the die has shaken, now the die must fall
        There ain’t a winner in the game
        He don’t go home with all, not with all[All]
        Leaving Texas, fourth day of July
        Sun so hot, the clouds so low, the eagles filled the sky
        Catch the Detroit Lightning out of Santa Fe
        The Great Northern out of Cheyenne, from sea to shining sea (note 3)[Jerry] (note 4)
        Gotta go to Tulsa, first train we can ride
        Gotta settle one old score, one small point of pride
        [Bob]
        There ain’t a place a man can hide, Shannon, will keep him from the sun
        Ain’t a bed can give us rest now, you keep us on the run[All]
        Jack Straw from Wichita cut his buddy down
        And dug for him a shallow grave, and laid his body down
        Half a mile from Tucson, by the morning light
        One man gone and another to go
        My old buddy you’re moving much too slowWe can share the women we can share the wine 
      LOSERIf I had a gun for every ace that I had drawn
      I could arm a town the size of Abilene
      Don’t you push me baby, ’cause I’m moaning low
      And you know I’m only in it for the goldAll that I am asking for is ten gold dollars (note 1)
      And I could pay you back with one good hand
      You can look around at the wide world over
      But you’ll never find another honest manLast fair deal in the country, sweet Susie (note 2)
      Last fair deal in the town
      Put your gold money where your love is baby
      Before you let my deal go downDon’t you push me baby, ’cause I’m moaning low
      Well I know a little something you won’t ever know
      Don’t you touch hard liquor, just a cup of cold coffee
      Gonna get up in the morning and goEverybody’s bragging and drinking that wine
      I can tell the Queen of Diamonds by the way she shines
      Come to daddy on an inside straight
      Well I got no chance of losing this time
      Well I got no chance of losing this time

MISSISSIPPI HALF-STEP UPTOWN TOODLELOO

On the day that I was born Daddy sat down and cried
I had the mark just as plain as day, I could not be denied
They say that Cain caught Abel rolling loaded dice
Ace of spades behind his ear and him not thinking twice

Half step, Mississippi uptown toodleloo
Hello baby I’m gone goodbye
Half a cup of rock and rye
Farewell to you old southern skies
I’m on my way, on my way

If all you got to live for is what you left behind
Get yourself a powder charge and seal that silver mine
Lost my boots in transit babe, pile of smoking leather
Nailed a retread to my feet and prayed for better weather

They say that when your ship comes in, first man takes the sails
Second takes the after deck, third the planks and rails
What’s the point of calling shots, this cue ain’t straight in line
Cue balls made of styrofoam and no-one’s got the time

Across the Rio Grand-eo
Across the lazy river

  • PLAYING IN THE BAND Some folks trust to reason
    Others trust to might
    I don’t trust to nothing
    But I know it come out rightSay it once again now
    Oh I hope you understand
    When it’s done and over
    Lord, a man is just a manPlaying
    Playing in the band
    Daybreak
    Daybreak on the landSome folks look for answers
    Others look for fights
    Some folks up in treetops
    Just look to see the sightsI can tell your future
    Look what’s in your hand
    But I can’t stop for nothing
    I’m just playing in the bandPlaying
    Playing in the band
    Daybreak
    Daybreak on the land
  • RAMBLE ON ROSEJust like Jack the Ripper
    Just like Mojo Hand
    Just like Billy Sunday
    In a shotgun rag-time bandJust like New York City
    Just like Jericho
    Pace the halls and climb the walls
    And get out when they blowDid you say your name was Rambling Rose?
    Ramble on baby, settle down easy
    Ramble on RosevJust like Jack and Jill
    Mama told the sailor (note 1)
    One heat up and one cool down
    Leave nothing for the tailorJust like Jack and Jill
    Papa told the jailer
    One go up and one come down
    Do yourself a favour[Bridge]
    I’m gonna sing you
    A hundred verses of ragtime
    I know this song
    It ain’t never gonna end
    I’m gonna march you up and down
    Along the county line
    Take you to the leader
    Of the band 
  • RIPPLEIf 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 (note 1)Ripple in still water
    When there is no pebble tossed
    Nor wind to blowReach 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 manThere 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 aloneRipple in still water
    When 
  • STELLA BLUEAll the years combine
    They melt into a dream
    A broken angel sings
    From a guitarIn the end there’s just a song
    Comes crying up the night
    Through all the broken dreams (note 1)
    And vanished yearsStella Blue
    Stella BlueWhen all the cards are down
    There’s nothing left to see
    There’s just the pavement left
    And broken dreamsIn the end there’s still that song (note 2)
    Comes crying like the wind
    Down every lonely street
    That’s ever beenStella Blue
    Stella BlueI’ve stayed in every blue light cheap hotel
    Can’t win for trying
    Dust off those rusty strings just one more time
    Gonna make them shine (note 3)It all rolls into one
    And nothing comes for free
    There’s nothing you can hold
    For very longAnd when you hear that song
    Come crying like the wind
    It seems like all this life
    Was just a dreamStella Blue
    Stella Blue
  • SUGAREEWhen they come to take you down
    When they bring that wagon round
    When they come to call on you
    And drag your poor body downJust one thing I ask of you
    Just one thing for me
    Please forget you knew my name
    My darling, SugareeShake it, shake it, Sugaree
    Just don’t tell them that you know me
    Shake it, shake it, Sugaree
    Just don’t tell them that you know meYou thought you was the cool fool
    And never would do no wrong
    You had everything sewed up tight
    How come you lay awake all night longWell in spite of all you gained
    You still have to stand out in the pouring rain
    One last voice is calling you
    And I guess it’s time you goWell shake it up now, Sugaree
    I’ll meet you at the jubilee
    And if that jubilee don’t come
    Maybe I’ll meet you on the run
  • TENNESSEE JEDCold iron shackles, ball and chain
    Listen to the whistle of the evening train
    You know you bound to wind up dead
    If you don’t head back to Tennessee JedRich man step on my poor head
    When you get back you better butter my bread
    Well you know it’s like I said
    You better head back to Tennessee JedChorus Tennessee, Tennessee
    There ain’t no place I’d rather be
    Baby won’t you carry me
    Back to TennesseeDrank all day and rock all night
    The law come to get you if you don’t walk right
    Got a letter this morning, baby, and all it read
    You better head back to Tennessee JedI dropped four flights and cracked my spine
    Buddy come quick with the iodine
    Catch a few winks, baby, under the bed
    Then you head back to Tennessee JedI ran into Charlie Phogg (note 1)
    Blacked my eye and he kicked my dog
    My doggie turned to me and he said
    Let’s head back to Tennessee JedI woke up feeling mean
    I went down to play the slot machine
    The wheels turned around and the letters read
    You better head back to Tennessee Jed

Songs

This is a list of notable song lyrics written by Hunter.

James Porteous

James Porteous is an author, photographer and researcher. Clipper Media News is a daily publicatioin featuring news and views you can use.

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