For my birthday in 2005, my son, the boy who wants no affiliation to his mother via this website, and as such, will remain unnamed, gave me the just released book titled, The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics, by David Dodd.
Back then, being a busy stay-at-home mom and small business owner, I didn’t have time for the massive volume except to give specific pages a glance when looking for a word in a song that I kept missing. But with those hands-on mothering days now sadly over, I have a little more time to go through it from start to end.
Problem is, I must have grown stupid in the interim, as I’m trapped on the pages written by Robert Hunter. I can’t breeze through the forward as I do with most other books, not if I want to understand what the man is trying to say.
It’s heady stuff that Hunter writes of. The Dead’s songs of the same nature, I get the music when I don’t try to understand, but forget about it if I listen with my head.
But from what I’m taking away from the abyss of the forward, that’s probably because Hunter’s words are poetry, more than anything else. Here I was all these years thinking I hated poetry, except for my unnamed son’s pieces, but apparently not.
Hunter states that the band’s name, in and of itself, The Grateful Dead, “called sheaves of spirits down on us all.” That the name (and I believe the music too), expressed “a deep and mystic hope about the nature of eternity,” and that the Dead’s shows “were ceremonies,” and the attendees “celebrants.” I concept didn’t come through at the time, but it’s true what he says.
The Dead call it down. Much like Reverend Miles does at Morning Star Missionary Baptist church over on the east side of town in Kansas City – “Early One Sunday Morning! – and much like blues-now-turned-gospel-singer, Slick Ballinger, does in song, walk and sermon.
It’s a little clearer to me now that poetry is metaphor in action – and since I live in metaphor, and am a believer in ceremony and ritual – I guess it’s no wonder that I connected with the Dead so long ago.
But still, who can understand with their head the lyrics to, Mississippi Half-step uptown ToodleLoo, much less the title?
On the day that I was born Daddy sat down and cried I had the mark just as plain as day which could not be denied they say that Cain caught Abel Rolling loaded dice Ace of spades behind his ear and him not thinking twice
Not this menopausal woman. Perhaps it’s why the band endures, even with death.