Alive to the Dead

I have had a secret crush on the Dead ever since the late 70’s.

I had never heard of them growing up, but in 10th grade a girl I liked a lot who was musically gifted had the album Skeletons From the Closet in her collection. Since then, I always associate this band with her. After she transferred to a different school, I bought the album. Later, in the 80’s, I prided my punk-rock self on hating the the free-form hippie vibe of the Dead. (Ever heard Pop-O-Pies cover Truckin ?)

I reviled tie-die patchouli-oil types. But in the back of my mind I felt ashamed because I knew I still liked Uncle John’s Band and Mexicali Blues, so I was a punk-rock heretic and a secret hippie sympathizer. As the years rolled by I still associated the songs on “Skeletons From the Closet” with that girl from 10th grade. It was the only Dead album I was familiar with.

Now I have a daughter of my own who is 8 and I played Uncle John’s Band for her.
She immediately loved it and we like to sing it together in the car. I realized how lovely the harmonies are. I perceived, as if for the first time, the Americana roots behind the tune. I appreciated the tripped-out Biblical imagery, even Tea Party 1776 themes, and I realized what an amazing song it truly is. I discovered other Dead songs that I have learned to love: “Eyes of the World” and “Box of Rain” come to mind. I like these songs for the fusion of music with poetic lyrics.

I think the Dead mixed country-rock with Hippie ethos like few other bands. And I believe Robert Hunter’s lyrics can stand on their own as poetry without the music.
I still don’t care for the noodling around on extended jams before religiously adoring crowds of acid-laced freaks, but I have a new respect for the studio-recorded music of the Grateful Dead. I am no longer a bad punk-rocker who has to hide my shameful secret; just another person who loves certain songs by the Grateful Dead.


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
Whoa oh, what I want to know is, are you kind?
It’s a buck dancer’s choice, my friends, better take my advice
You know all the rules by now and the fire from the ice
Will you come with me, won’t you come with me?
Whoa oh, what I want to know, will you come with me?
Goddamn, well, I declare, have you seen the like
Their walls are built of cannon balls, their motto is “Don’t tread on me”
Come hear uncle John’s band playing to the tide
Come with me or go alone, he’s come to take his children home
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
Ain’t no time to hate, barely time to wait
Whoa oh, what I want to know, where does the time go?
I live in a silver mine and I call it beggar’s tomb
I’ve got me a violin and I beg you call the tune
Anybody’s choice, I can hear your voice
Whoa oh, what I want to know, how does the song go?
Come hear uncle John’s band by the riverside
Got some things to talk about, here beside the rising tide
Come hear uncle John’s band, playing to the tide
Come on along or go alone, he’s come to take his children home
Whoa oh, what I want to know, how does the song go?
Come hear uncle John’s band by the riverside
Got some things to talk about here beside the rising tide
Come hear uncle John’s band, playing to the tide
Come on along or go alone, he’s come to take his children home
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