Grateful Dead Lyricist Robert Hunter 1941 – 2019
Poet and writer Robert Hunter, best known for providing the lyrics to dozens of Grateful Dead songs, died on Monday at age 78. Hunter’s family provided the following statement to Rolling Stone:
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.
Robert C. Hunter was born on June 23, 1941 in San Luis Obispo, California. Hunter met Jerry Garcia when they were both teenagers and the pair performed together in a number of bluegrass groups and as a duo. Garcia went on to form The Warlocks, who soon changed their name to the Grateful Dead, in 1965. Robert was on hand to witness the Dead’s first concert and forged a songwriting relationship with Garcia that would last until Jerry’s death in 1995.
Hunter’s earliest contributions to the Dead were the lyrics to “St. Stephen,” “China Cat Sunflower” and “Alligator.” Robert sent the lyrics to Jerry who replied to Hunter asking him to become the band’s lyricist. Hunter went on to pen the words to many of the band’s most beloved classics including “Uncle John’s Band,” “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo,” “Ripple,” “Truckin’,” “Friend Of The Devil,” “Black Muddy River,” “Eyes Of The World,” “Touch Of Grey,” “Scarlet Begonias” and “Franklin’s Tower.”
Robert also was a performer and embarked on a few tours as a solo artist, including one in 2014. Following Garcia’s death, Hunter continued to write and contributed lyrics to such artists as Bob Dylan, 7 Walkers, Mickey Hart, Steve Kimock and The String Cheese Incident. In 2013, Robert received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Americana Music Association and the next year was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame.