In Memoriam: Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter

Robert Hunter, lyricist for the Grateful Dead and the pen behind some of the band’s most beloved songs passed away at his home in Marin County, CA, on Monday night. He was 78 years old. Hunter wrote numerous songs alongside Jerry Garcia, including “Ripple,” “China Cat Sunflower,” “Casey Jones,” “Sugar Magnolia,” “Mountains of the Moon,” “Althea,” “Dark Star,” “Stella Blue” among others. 

A statement from Hunter’s family stated “It is with great sadness we confirm our beloved Robert passed away yesterday night. 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.”

Grateful Dead guitarist and singer Bob Weir shared his condolences on Twitter


Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a non-performing member of the Grateful Dead, Hunter wrote with Bob Dylan, Bruce Hornsby, Cesar Rojas of Los Lobos, in addition to Garcia. Hunter also produced a number of books of poetry, as well as solo albums over the course of his life. 

Grateful Dead archivist David Lemieux said in remembering Hunter

For a man who provided us with so many meaningful words, the soundtrack to our lives, he’s left us a bit speechless with his passing. For more than 50 years, since his first lyrical contributions to the Grateful Dead in 1967, Robert Hunter has been just as integral a part of the legacy of the Grateful Dead as those who recorded the music to accompany his words, those who walked out on stage to bring his words to life. More than 2,000 times 1967-1995, these six (or five or seven) proud walkers on the jingle bell rainbow, plus countless thousands of times since then by other performers, the Grateful Dead have brought Hunter’s words to life in front of all of us as their witness. Not a single day has gone by since 1984 that Hunter’s words haven’t been a part of my world; I’ve heard Jerry, Bob and others sing his words literally every day for the past 35 years.

When the final Fare Thee Well show ended in Chicago in 2015, Mickey Hart famously sent us on our way by asking us to “please, be kind,” and that lesson along with its lyrical brethren written by Hunter, “ain’t no time to hate,” and “are you kind?” are some of the truest words to live by. No matter what meaning, solace, lesson you find in Hunter’s lyrics, please go out and do some good with them.

Listen to full show audio from Robert Hunter’s performance at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY on October 5, 2013. May the four winds blow you safely home.

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