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“Shine Your Shoes, Light Your Fuse. Can You Use Them Ol’ U.S. Blues?”: The Great Robert Hunter

robert_hunterOne important thing is being missed amidst the hoopla surrounding the end of the Grateful Dead/Dead’s run: Not enough credit is being given to Robert Hunter, the band’s brilliant lyricist. The band would have enjoyed only a fraction of its success without Hunter’s contribution.

This is what is known in politics as a push poll. The idea is to preface a question with information aimed at soliciting a particular answer. Please check out the poll at the bottom of this page.

Think of these excerpts from familiar Grateful Dead songs as poetry:

River gonna take me
Sing me sweet and sleepy
Sing me sweet and sleepy
all the way back back home
It’s a far gone lullaby
sung many years ago
Mama, Mama, many worlds I’ve come
since I first left home

–Brokedown Palace

 

See here how everything
Lead up to this day
And it’s just like
Any other day
That’s ever been
Sun goin up
And then the
Sun it goin down
Shine through my window and
My friends they come around
Come around
Come around

–Black Peter

 

Got to get down to the Cumberland mine
That’s where I mainly spend my time
Make good money/five dollars a day
Made any more I might move away –

Lotta poor man got the Cumberland Blues
He can’t win for losin
Lotta poor man got to walk the line
Just to pay his union dues

–Cumberland Blues

 

I’m Uncle Sam, that’s who I am
Been hidin’ out in a rock and roll band.
Shake the hand that shook the hand of P.T. Barnum and Charlie Chan.
Shine your shoes, light your fuse. Can you use them ol’ U.S. Blues?
I’ll drink your health, share your wealth, run your life, steal your wife.
Wave that flag, wave it wide and high.
Summertime done, come and gone, my, oh, my.

–US Blues

 

We used to play for silver, now we play for life
And one’s for sport one’s for blood at the point of a knife
And now the die is shaken, now the die must fall
There ain’t a winner in the game, he don’t go home with all
Not with all

–Jack Straw

Now that I have stated my case, please take the poll. Also, pls. put your favorite Hunter lyric in the comments.

[poll id=”3″]

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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