Robert Hunter, in my mind, is one of the lyrical giants of the 20th century. I place him right up there with Bob Dylan, Lennon/McCartney, Tom Waits and Lou Reed.

Hunter is primarily known for having written a vast songbook with Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead including tunes such as Trucking, Scarlet Begonias and Terrapin Station. He has also written lyrics for Bob Dylan {Silvio} - (hard to imagine Bob asking someone else for a lyric) and others.

Hunter is also a poet and has published several books of verse includeing Infinity Minus Eleven (1992) and Night Cadre (1991).

Alan Trist wrote this in his foreword to Infinity Minus Eleven:

"You all know Robert Hunter as the chief lyricist of the Grateful Dead, who has shown us that the visions of the 60s impulse contain ambiguities within their strong affermations. Songpoet... lyricist... poet... words that try to distinguish beteween the poet of the song and the poet of the written or spoken word. Robert is all of these. I first knew him in those bohemian halls of learning: coffee bar bookstore, St. Michaels Alley, Kelper's, Palo Alto 1961. The time was of social ferment, of dissatisfaction, of discovery, of assurance, of love, is a continum that Hunter inhabits and is now melding in a new medium."

Hunter also translated Rilke's Duino Elegies in 1987 and published his collected lyrics "Box of Rain" in 1990.

David Greenberg wrote this of Hunter: "Listen to the words of the poet Robert Hunter. For eons other words of his have been sung and will be sung for many eons yet to unfold, as long as the need for music doesn't die.... Forget all those songs, especially forget those songs that have become old friends. Cast them out! Settle in and fall prey to the wicked treat it is to listen to the solitary, lonley voice. Let Hunter's words wash over you, sully you, burden you down with their meanings and twists, clean you, wilt you."

I met Hunter one evening in Portland, Oregon at the Roseland Theater. It was a few years after I had last seen the dead and the desire to hear those words of Hunters was strong in me. It was a desperate need. I arrived at the theater early after driving up from Eugene. Early enough to hear the sound check spilling out from an open door in the parking lot. I climbed up the fire escape stairs and glanced in the door and there was Hunter, solo only with an accoutic guitar strapped around his shoulders. I stood there listening closely to the soundcheck and when it ended I ventured inside the theater.

Hunter was signing posters for a charity thing when I walked up to him and told him of my translations into Italian of a few of his lyrics. We chatted for a few as he signed. He autographed my ticket (which I had no use for any longer as I was already inside the theater when the management opened the doors - in for free like a true Deadhead) and I asked him if I could have his email so I could send him the translations. He agreed and passed it over to me and then headed backstage. The show was fantastic and the music and atmosphere got me really high. I wrote Hunter several times in the next years... He only responded once - to some poetry of my own that I had sent him from Italy. He said "Heavy" and that was it. But it was a compliment I'll never forget. Thank god for Robert Hunter.

Compendium of Hunter's works:

Poems:
Sentinel 1993
Infinity Minus Eleven 1993
Idiot's Delight 1992
Night Cadre 1991
A Box of Rain: collected lyrics 1990

Translations:
Sonnets to Orpheus/ Rainer Maria Rilke 1993
Duino Elegies/ Rainer Maria Rilke 1987

Albums:
A Box of Rain 1992
Tiger Rose 1975
Tales of the Great Rum Runners 1974

Hunter is currently writing a occasional blog dealing with the reprecussions of Septermber 11th.
You can find it here:

http://www.dead.net/RobertHunterArchive/files/newjournal/50journal_9.10.01.html#anchor6395535

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