Listening for the secret... searching for the sound...

~ Annotated Edition ~

They're a band beyond description... Like Jehovah's favorite choir...
People joining hand in hand... While the music plays the band...
Lord, they're setting us on fire!

   from "The Music Never Stopped" - J.P. Barlow & R. Weir



Elsewhere we have described the Grateful Dead as an modern manifestation of an Afro-Diasporic Cult of the Dead. The evolutionary history of African rhythms becoming the foundational root of American Jazz and Blues, is self-evident. Although this history is horrifically inexcusable, the musical result is spiritually joyous. Music has always played a profound role in ritual... it is the language of the soul. Music manifests that which is transcendent... transmitting it to the perceptive faculties of the listener.

This musical transcendence is articulated within the lyric element of the composition. The spoken (or sung) word, in it's densest form... ie: poetry or lyric... conveys large quantities of information, in few words. This information is emotive, as apposed to intellectual. It speaks to the soul. Within the genre of psychedelic rock, the Grateful Dead were (and are) masters at articulating the ineffable. Their music provided a rich medium in which the listener was invited to partake. The lyrics of Robert Hunter, John P Barlow, et al... were wonderfully descriptive, yet poetically sparse... conjuring mythic imagery.

It is right and fitting that these lyrical pearls be written down for psychedelic prosperity. Before proceeding, a word of caution. Like a mirror, the following verse is reflective... any meaning derived is a mere reflection in the eye of the beholder. It is just a box of rain… I don't know who put it there… Believe it if you need it, or leave it, if you dare…

In keeping with the spirit of the great Dead Archivist, David Dodd from his site at UC Santa Cruz... we present the following in an annotated format. And now... on to selected excerpts from the Book of the Dead...


Shall we go, you and I while we can?
Through... the transitive nightfall of diamonds?

- R Hunter


Book of the Dead according to Phil


Blue light rain, whoa, unbroken chain.
Looking for familiar faces in an empty window pane.
Listening for the secret, searching for the sound...
But I could only hear the preacher and the baying of his hounds.

Willow sky, whoa, I walk and wonder why?
They say love your brother but you will catch it when you try.
Roll you down the line boy, drop you for a loss...
Ride out on a cold railroad and nail you to a cross.

from "Unbroken Chain" - B. Peterson & P. Lesh



What do you want me to do? To do for you… To see you through?
A box of rain will ease the pain and love will see you through.

 Just a box of rain… wind and water…
Believe it if you need it, if you don't just pass it on.

Sun and shower… Wind and rain…
In and out the window like a moth before a flame.

 It's just a box of rain… I don't know who put it there…
Believe it if you need it or leave it if you dare…

But it's just a box of rain or a ribbon for your hair…
Such a long-long time to be gone and a short time to be there.

from "Box of Rain" - R. Hunter & P. Lesh




Passenger... Don't you hear me?
Destination... seen unclearly...
What is a man...
Deep down inside?
But a raging beast... with nothing to hide!

Upside out... or inside down.
False alarm... the only game in town.
No man's land... the only game in town.
The only game in town.

from "Passenger" - Phil Lesh & Peter Monk



Book of the Dead according to Bobbie


My time coming, any day... don't worry bout me, no...
It's gonna be just like they say... them voices tell me so.
Seems so long I felt this way and time sure passin' slow...
My time coming, any day, don't worry about me, no...

Don't worry about me... no, no... don't worry about me, no...

California!.. A prophet on the burning shore.
California... I'll be knocking on the golden door.
Like an angel, standing in a shaft of light... rising up to paradise... I know I'm gonna shine...

You've all been asleep! You would not believe me!
Them voices telling me... you will soon receive me!
We're standing on the beach, the sea will part before me!
(Fire wheel burning in the air)
And you will follow me... and we will rise to glory!
(Way up the middle of the air)

And I'll call down thunder and speak the same!
And my word fills the sky with flame!
And might and glory gonna be my name!
And men gonna light my way...

from "Estimated Prophet" - J.P. Barlow & R. Weir




Then God way up in heaven, for whatever it was worth,
Thought He'd have a big old party, thought He'd call it planet Earth.
Don't worry about tomorrow, Lord, you'll know it when it comes,
When the rock and rollin' music meets the risin' shinin' sun.

Hey, u-huh... One more Saturday night!

from "One more Saturday night" - R. Weir



When that wind blows... And the darkness starts to fall... I can hear the sirens call...
It's a certain sort of sound... In the rain fallin' down...
Rain fallin' down...

Holes in what's left of my reason... Holes in the knees of my blues,
Odds against me been increasin'... But I'll pull through.

Never could read no road map... And I don't know what the weather might do,
But hear that witch wind whinin'... See that Dog Star shinin'... I've got a feelin' there's no time to lose...

No time to lose!

from "Lost Sailor" - J.P. Barlow & R. Weir



Yet sometimes at night I dream…
He's still that hairy man.
Shadowboxing the Apocalypse and wandering the land.
Shadowboxing the Apocalypse... and wandering the land.

Esau holds a blessing... Brother Esau bears a curse.
I would say that the blame is mine, but I suspect it's something worse.
The more my brother looks like me, the less I understand...
The silent war that bloodied both our hands.
Sometimes at night, I think I understand.

It's brother to brother and it's man to man
And it's face to face and it's hand to hand...
We shadow-dance... the silent war within.

The shadow-dance, it never ends...
Never ends, never ends.
Shadowboxing the Apocalypse, yet again...
Yet again.
Shadowboxing the Apocalypse,
And wandering the land.

 from "My Brother Esau" - J.P. Barlow & R. Weir



Some folks trust in Reason…others trust in might.
I don't trust in nothing... but I know it comes out right.
Say it once again now... Whoa, I hope you understand.
When it's done and over... lord, a man is just a man.

Playin... playin in the band.
Daybreak... daybreak on the land...

And if a man among you... got no sin upon his hand.
Let him cast a stone at me for playing in the band.

 from "Playin' in the Band" - J.P. Barlow & R. Weir



Shipping powders back and forth... black goes south and white comes north.
In a whole world full of petty wars... Singing I got mine and you got yours.
And the current fashion sets the pace... Lose your step, fall out of grace.
And the radical, he rant and rage... Singing someone's got to turn the page.
And the rich man in his summer home... Singing just leave well enough alone.
But his pants are down, his cover's blown...

And the politicians throwin' stones...
So the kids they dance and shake their bones... cause it's all too clear we're on our own.
Singing ashes, ashes... all fall down.

Ashes, ashes, all fall down.

from "Throwing Stones" - J.P. Barlow & R. Weir



Book of the Dead according to Jerry


Well the first days are the hardest days...
don't you worry anymore.
Cause when life looks like easy street...
there is danger at your door.

Think this through with me.
Let me know your mind.
Wo-oah, what I want to know...
is... are you kind?

from "Uncle John's Band" - R. Hunter & J. Garcia



Let my inspiration flow in token lines suggesting rhythm...
that will not forsake me till my tale is told and done.

While the firelight's aglow... strange shadows in the flames will grow...
till things we've never seen will seem familiar...

~ ~ ~     ~ ~ ~     ~ ~ ~


Move me brightly.
Light the song with sense and color, hold away despair.
More than this I will not ask... faced with mysteries dark and vast.
Statements just seem vain at last.
Some rise... some fall... some climb... to get to terrapin.

from "Terrapin Station" - R. Hunter & J. Garcia



There is a road, no simple highway.
Between the dawn and the dark of night.
And if you go no one may follow.
That path is for your steps alone.

In still water.
When there is no pebble tossed Nor wind to blow.

You who choose to lead must follow.
But if you fall you fall alone.
If you should stand then who's to guide you?
If I knew the way I would take you home. 

from "Ripple" - R. Hunter & J. Garcia




It's the same story the crow told me.
it's the only one he knows.
like the morning sun you come...
and like the wind you go...

from "Uncle John's Band" - R. Hunter & J. Garcia



Saint Stephen with a rose... In and out of the garden he goes.
Country garland in the wind and the rain... Wherever he goes the people all complain.

Stephen prosper in his time... Well he may and he may decline.
Did it matter? does it now? Stephen would answer if he only knew how.

Wishing well with a golden bell... Bucket hanging clear to hell.
Hell halfway twixt now and then... Stephen fill it up and lower down...

And lower down again.

from "Saint Stephen" - R. Hunter & J. Garcia



In another time's forgotten space... your eyes looked through your mother's face.
Wildflower seed on the sand and stone... may the four winds blow you safely home.

Roll away... the dew . . .

Some come to laugh their past away... Some come to make it just one more day.
Whichever way your pleasure tends... if you plant ice, you're going to harvest wind.

Roll away... the dew . . .

from "Franklin's Tower" - R. Hunter & J. Garcia



Went to see the captain, strangest I could find,
Laid my proposition down, laid it on the line.
I won't slave for beggars pay, likewise gold and jewels,
But I would slave to learn the way to sink  your ship of fools.

It was later than I thought when I first believed you,
Now I cannot share your laughter, ship of fools.

~ ~ ~     ~ ~ ~     ~ ~ ~

The bottles stand as empty, as they were filled before.
Time there was and plenty, but from that cup no more.
Though I could not caution all, I still might warn a few:

Don't lend your hand to raise no flag atop no ship of fools.

Ship of fools... on a cruel sea, ship of fools... sail away from me.
It was later than I thought, when I first believed you,
Now I cannot share your laughter, ship of fools...

from "Ship of Fools" - R. Hunter & J. Garcia




There comes a redeemer... and he slowly too fades away.
There follows a wagon behind him that's loaded with clay.
and the seeds that were silent all burst into bloom and decay
The night comes so quiet... and it's close on the heels of the day

Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the World.


Sometimes we live no particular way but our own.
Sometimes we visit your country and live in your home.
Sometimes we ride on your horses... Sometimes we walk alone.
Sometimes the songs that we hear are just songs of our own.

from "Eyes of the World" - R. Hunter & J. Garcia



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.

from "Black Peter" - R. Hunter & J. Garcia



Haiku of the Dead

Your rain falls like crazy fingers
Peals of fragile thunder
keeping time


Cloud hands reaching from a rainbow
Tapping at the window
touch your hair


Life may be sweeter for this
I don't know
see how it feels in the end

Who can stop what must arrive now?
Something new is waiting
to be born


Midnight, on a carousel ride
reaching for the gold ring
down inside


Never could reach it
 just slips away
but I try


Gone are the days we stopped to decide... Where we should go... We just ride.
Gone are the broken eyes we saw through in dreams... Gone... both dream and lie.

from "Crazy Fingers" - R. Hunter & J. Garcia



...Storyteller makes no choice and soon you will not hear his voice.
His job is to shed light, and not to master...

Since the end is never told.
We pay the teller off in gold.

In hopes he will come back... But he cannot be bought or sold.


Counting stars by candlelight... all are dim but one is bright:
the spiral light of Venus, rising first and shining best.
From the northwest corner of a brand-new crescent moon...
crickets and cicadas sing... a rare and different tune

Terrapin Station... in the shadow of the moon

Terrapin Station... and I know we'll be there soon

Terrapin! I can't figure out...
Terrapin! If it's an end or the beginning...
Terrapin! But the train's got its brakes on...
and the whistle is screaming:


from "Terrapin Station" - R. Hunter & J. Garcia







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