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Grateful Dead collaborator Robert Hunter dead at 78

Robert Hunter
Robert Hunter (Image credit: Ed Perlstein/Redferns - Getty)

Grateful Dead (opens in new tab) collaborator Robert Hunter has died at the age of 78.

The news was confirmed on the Grateful Dead’s Facebook page, with tributes posted by drummer Mickey Hart and bassist Phil Lesh.

Hart says: “We loved Bob Hunter and will miss him unimaginably. This is such a tragic and horribly sad day for Bob’s family and for all of us who were lucky to enough to hear and play his words.

“There was nobody like Bob Hunter, and there never will be. A visionary wordsmith extraordinaire, he explained the unexplainable and the words struck deep. The characters that inhabited his world explained so much and revealed multi-layers of emotions.

"He spun the stories, and he now rides a carpet headed straight to Jerry Garcia. The Grateful Dead was his canvas and together we made magic.”

Lesh adds: “I am heartbroken. Last night we lost Robert Hunter. As much as anyone, he defined in his words what it meant to be the Grateful Dead. His lyrics, ranging from old border ballads to urban legend, western narratives and beyond, brought into sharp focus what was implicit in our music. 

“A case in point is Box Of Rain. He heard so deeply what my feelings were when I composed the music, feelings I didn’t know I had until I read his lyrics. 

“The lyrics he wrote for Jerry likewise tapped into the very essence of Jerry’s heart and soul – drawing forth the music living there. 

“Significantly, the very first lyric Robert wrote for us was Dark Star, which became the definitive Grateful Dead exploratory vehicle.

“So fare thee well, Robert Hunter. When my time comes I’ll be looking for you and Jer out there in the transitive nightfall of diamonds.”

Born in 1941, Hunter first hooked up with Garcia in the early 60s and penned the lyrics to Grateful Dead other tracks including Alligator, China Cat Sunflower, St. Stephen, Truckin’, Scarlet Begonias, Uncle John’s Band and Touch Of Grey.

Hunter also released solo albums, wrote a number of books and collaborated with artists including Bob Dylan (opens in new tab), Elvis Costello (opens in new tab) and Bruce Hornsby.

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