Robert Hunter, the poet and musician who wrote many of the Grateful Dead’s lyrics, died on Monday night, Rolling Stone reports. No cause of death was given. He was 78.
“It is with great sadness we confirm our beloved Robert passed away yesterday night,” Hunter’s family announced in a statement. “He died peacefully at home in his bed, surrounded by love. His wife Maureen was by his side holding his hand. For his fans that have loved and supported him all these years, take comfort in knowing that his words are all around us, and in that way his is never truly gone. In this time of grief please celebrate him the way you all know how, by being together and listening to the music. Let there be songs to fill the air.”
Robert Hunter was born Robert Burns — supposedly the great-great-grandson of the renowned Scottish poet of the same name — in Oceano, California in 1941. Around 1962, Hunter volunteered to be a test subject in Stanford’s early experiments with psychedelic drugs, secretly sponsored by the CIA as part of their MKULTRA program, where he was paid to take LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline and write about his experiences.
In the early 1960s, Hunter met and befriended Jerry Garcia, and the two played together in several bluegrass bands before the formation of the Grateful Dead. Hunter composed his first lyrics for the Grateful Dead on acid when he was living in Arizona. After battling a drug addiction, he returned to California in 1967, where he wrote the lyrics for “Dark Star” and quickly became an official non-performing member of the band and their principal lyricist.
Hunter, who collaborated closely with Garcia, penned the lyrics to songs including “China Cat Sunflower,” “Casey Jones,” “Box Of Rain,” “Ripple,” “Friend Of The Devil,” “Touch Of Grey,” “Terrapin Station,” “Sugar Magnolia,” “St. Stephen,” and “Uncle John’s Band.” In 1994, he was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame as a member of the Grateful Dead.
In addition to his work with the Dead, Hunter released a couple of solo albums in the mid-’70s and co-wrote two songs on Bob Dylan’s 1988 album Down In he Groove. After Garcia’s death and the dissolution of the Grateful Dead in 1995, Hunter went on to collaborate with Bruce Hornsby, Elvis Costello, Jim Lauderdale, and more, and he co-wrote all but one of the songs on Dylan’s 2009 LP Together Through Life.
Hunter embarked on his last solo tour in 2013. Two years later, he and Jerry Garcia were inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame, with Garcia’s daughter Trixie accepting the award on behalf of her father. He is survived by his wife Maureen, whom he married in 1982. Revisit some of his work below.