He’s Gone Grateful Dead Lyricist Passes Away


Maddy Pena, Reporter

Famous for his psychedelic and groovy lyrics, The Grateful Dead’s main lyricist, Robert Hunter, was reported dead on September 23rd, 2019. Robert Hunter was a very accomplished man and wrote many of The Grateful Dead’s most popular songs such as China Cat Sunflower, Dark Star, and St. Stephen. Hunter met lead singer and guitarist of the band Jerry Garcia when he was 19 and Jerry was 18. They instantly became very close friends. Garcia offered Hunter a spot writing songs for him but Hunter declined to focus on his own literary writing.

After turning down Garcia’s offer, Hunter started participating in psychedelic experiments at Stanford University. Hunter didn’t think much of the tests he was doing, but soon after he started having substance abuse issues. He decided to take some time away from the Bay Area and moved to New Mexico. Being suddenly inspired, Hunter began writing a multitude of songs which he sent to his close friend, Jerry Garcia. Garcia begged and pleaded for Hunter to come back to San Francisco and join The Grateful Dead as their lyricist.

Eventually Hunter gave in and went back home, where he started writing dozens of hit songs. Soon the band blew up and Hunter became as the Rolling Stone put it “Considered one of rock’s most ambitious and dazzling lyricists.” Hunter had an amazing time writing with the band even though as he said, “I would often write 50 songs and only 10 would be used.” After years and years of writing exquisite songs with his old and new friends, things started to get rough.

Jerry Garcia passed away on August 9th, 1995. Hunter said, “I always saw it coming, but seeing it coming is not the same as seeing it. I didn’t get the feeling he intended to live for very long. There are things about Jerry I just don’t understand. Or maybe am not capable of knowing.”  Despite the loss of his friend, Hunter’s career kept going. Hunter started writing songs with music icons Elvis Costello, Bruce Hornsby, Jim Lauderdale, and Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart. After the death of Garcia, Hunter is most known for his collaborations with singer Bob Dylan.

Hunter recorded several albums on his own and occasionally toured. He had spinal surgery in 2013 and as a result of his medical bills hit the road and went on his final tour. After that, he lived a simple and quiet life with his wife Maureen (who he married in 1982). He passed away peacefully at home in his bed with his wife at his side, holding his hand, surrounded by love.