In the afterglow of the Grateful Dead’s Fare Thee Well concerts, we highlighted The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics, an online project launched in 1995, which provided editorial footnotes explaining the references of every original Grateful Dead song.
For many of these songs we have Robert Hunter to thank. The majority of the Dead’s songs were Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia collaborations. Garcia composed the music, and Hunter, the lyrics. Hunter didn’t perform with the group (Garcia called him “the band member who doesn’t come out on stage with us”), but he was an integral part of the group all the same. When the Dead entered the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, Robert Hunter was one of the inductees.
Being part of the Grateful Dead family, Hunter sometimes joined the band on tours, which weren’t always fun and games. As Dennis McNally, the Dead’s official historian, wrote in A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead, the band, especially as it gained popularity and toured on a bigger scale, pulled some rough and tumble people into its orbit. The business managers made life difficult for the musical purists. And there was dissension at times. At one point, writes McNally, Robert Hunter wrote an open letter to the band members, structured as a sarcastic list, which “identifies the least-charitable aspects of life in the Grateful Dead hierarchy.” It reads as follows:
The Ten Commandments of Rock & Roll
1. Suck up to the top cats
2. Do not express independent opinions.
3. Do not work for common interests, only factional interests.
4. If there’s nothing to complain about, dig up some old gripe.
5. Do not respect property or persons other than band property and personnel.
6. Make devastating judgments about persons and situations without adequate information.
7. Discourage and confound personal, technical, and/or creative projects.
8. Single out absent persons for intense criticism.
9. Remember that anything you don’t understand is trying to fuck with you.
10 Destroy yourself physically and morally and insist that all true brothers do likewise as an expression of unity.