Robert Hunter

had his poetic beginnings in the Palo Alto, CA coffeehouse scene in the mid-sixties. It was there that he began writing poetry and found his future song writing partner Jerry Garcia.
Although Hunter had been writing poetry for several years, his career did not begin in earnest until 1967, when he mailed the lyrics to "St. Stephen", "Alligator", and "China Cat Sunflower" to his friend Garcia and the Grateful Dead. He was almost immediately taken on as the primary lyricist for the band. In collaboration with Garcia's musical talent, Hunter began turning out dozens of poems that would later become well-known songs.
The poems of have diverse and variegated themes; most, ...

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the division of contemporary/traditional and form their own categories.
One of the main traditional themes that Hunter uses is the gambling theme. The poems "Candyman" and "Loser" exemplify this motif the best:
Come on boys and gamble

Roll those laughing bones.

Seven come eleven, boys

I'll take your money home.


Last fair deal in the country, sweet Suzy

Last fair deal in the town.

Put your gold money where your love is, baby,

Before you let my deal go down.


Both are about professional gamblers, and both (especially "Loser") carry overtones of trouble and treachery. The following lines illustrate one such instance in "Candyman":

I come in from Memphis

where I learned to talk the jive

When I get back to Memphis

Be one man less alive

The Candyman obviously has a score to settle with someone in Memphis. The "trouble" notion is both more and less apparent in "Loser":

Don't you push me baby

because I'm moaning low.

I know a little ...

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example of Hunter's labor theme. A story of a coal miner in the Cumberland mines, this poem carries strong parallels to the "conventional wisdom" theme.

I gotta get down

I gotta get down

Or I can't work there no more.

Lotta poor man make a five-dollar bill/Keep him happy all the time

Some other fellow making nothing at all

And you can hear him crying

'Can I go buddy

Can I go down

Take your shift at the mine?'

Conventional wisdom is a motif that Hunter uses in several of his traditional poems, namely "Greatest Story Ever Told", and "Uncle John's Band". These deal with aspects of day-to-day country living and the common-sense wisdom found in many classic folk tales. ...

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Robert Hunter. (2007, August 12). Retrieved October 22, 2021, from
"Robert Hunter.", 12 Aug. 2007. Web. 22 Oct. 2021. <>
"Robert Hunter." August 12, 2007. Accessed October 22, 2021.
"Robert Hunter." August 12, 2007. Accessed October 22, 2021.
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Added: 8/12/2007 09:42:20 AM
Category: Biographies
Type: Premium Paper
Words: 2443
Pages: 9

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