The 10 Commandments of Rock ‘n’ Roll, According to Robert Hunter


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.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Every Grate­ful Dead Song Anno­tat­ed in Hyper­text: Web Project Reveals the Deep Lit­er­ary Foun­da­tions of the Dead’s Lyrics

The Grate­ful Dead’s “Rip­ple” Played by Musi­cians Around the World

10,173 Free Grate­ful Dead Con­cert Record­ings in the Inter­net Archive

The Grate­ful Dead’s “Ulti­mate Boot­leg” Now Online & Added to the Library of Con­gress’ Nation­al Record­ing Reg­istry

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.