×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Grateful Dead Lyricist Robert Hunter Dies at 78

Robert Hunter, the poet famous for writing many of the Grateful Dead’s best regarded songs, has died at 78.

“It is with great sadness we confirm our beloved Robert passed away yesterday night,” Hunter’s family said in a statement released to Rolling Stone. “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.”

Hunter wrote most of the Dead’s songs with Jerry Garcia and was renowned for bringing a literary sensibility to the band’s songs, in collaborations that included their biggest radio and video hit, “Touch of Grey,” as well as classics like “Casey Jones,” “Dark Star,” “Box of Rain,” “Uncle John’s Band,” “Sugar Magnolia,” “Brokedown Palace” and “Friend of the Devil.” One of the most famous lines in rock, “What a long, strange trip it’s been,” came from Hunter’s pen in the early FM staple “Truckin’.”

Hunter also wrote with others, most famously Bob Dylan, starting with “Silvio” in 1988 and continuing through nearly the entirety of the 2009 album “Together Through Life” and the track “Duquesne Whistle” on 2012’s “Tempest,” Dylan’s last album of original material.

In 2013, the Americana Music Association gave Hunter its lifetime achievement award for songwriting. In 2015, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame along with the late Garcia.

Hunter released or recorded a dozen solo albums, starting with “Tales of the Great Rum runners” in 1974 and continuing into the 1990s. He also issued a series of books that included annotated volumes of Dead lyrics and translations of the work of Rainer Maria Rilke as well as his own poems.

“Hunter tapped into his generation the same way Dylan did,” Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers told Rolling Stone in 2015, on the eve of the Songwriters Hall of Fame honor. “People will look back and say, ‘That’s American culture represented in music.’ He captured the hippie freedom, the mentality of the little guy against the corporation. A lot of the songs are about gambling, card playing and riverboat guys who’ll cut your throat if you look the wrong way.”

Said Hunter in a 2014 interview with the website Highway 81 Revisited, “”I always had a very high opinion, immodestly speaking, of what Jerry and I were turning out, and I thought we just hit some magical combination.  I thought it was going to continue on and that we were doing something special. It wasn’t just a fantasy, it was only partly fantasy.”

 

More Music

  • Elizabeth Warren Taylor Swift

    Elizabeth Warren Backs Taylor Swift in Big Machine Battle, Slams Private Equity Firms

    Taylor Swift’s battle with Big Machine has spilled into the political arena. Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren retweeted Swift’s Thursday message about her former record label preventing her from performing her old hits at the American Music Awards, adding that Swift is “one of many whose work as been threatened by a private equity firm.” [...]

  • Cynthia Erivo

    Cynthia Erivo Almost Gave Up Singing to Become a Spinal Surgeon

    Before Cynthia Erivo went on to become a Tony and Grammy winner, she nearly gave up singing to be a spinal surgeon. In her “Variety Studio: Actors on Actors” conversation with Alfre Woodard, the “Harriet” star said she had been singing since she was toddler. Her mother noticed she’d hum while eating her food when [...]

  • 'Roxanne' Singer Arizona Zervas Signs With

    'Roxanne' Singer Arizona Zervas Signs With Columbia

    Hotly tipped singer-songwriter Arizona Zervas, whose viral hit “Roxanne” is in the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100,  has signed with Columbia, Variety has confirmed. Since the release of the track on Oct. 10, “Roxanne” has reached nearly 50 million streams on Spotify. The single topped Spotify U.S. top tracks chart for an uninterrupted [...]

  • taylor swift, scott borchetta and scooter

    Rage Against the Big Machine: What's Driving the Taylor Swift Showdown

    The latest Taylor Swift-Scooter Braun-Scott Borchetta kerfuffle involves the sort of music business minutiae that doesn’t commonly interest the general public — in fact, it’s probably safe to say that untold thousands if not millions of people are suddenly familiar with the concept of re-recording old masters. But in blasting Braun on social media and [...]

  • Lil Peep Everybody's Everything

    Album Review: Lil Peep's 'Everybody's Everything'

    When Lil Peep died after an accidental overdose in 2017 at age 21, we had still only just touched on the life and aesthetic of the neophyte emo-trap-punk-rap king. We were just beginning to find out how he went from an Allentown, PA working class youth with an absentee father, and a child of mental [...]

  • Lauryn Hill Drops First New Solo

    Lauryn Hill Drops First New Solo Song in Five Years, ‘Guarding the Gates’ (Listen)

    Lauryn Hill dropped her first new solo song in five years on Friday morning, “Guarding the Gates,” from the forthcoming film “Queen & Slim.” While the song was announced several weeks ago, Hill songs have been few and far between in the 20 years since her Grammy-cleanup blockbuster debut solo album, “The Miseducation of Lauryn [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content