Robert Hunter, Grateful Dead Songwriter, dies at 78

By Saige Miller on September 25, 2019
American rock band The Grateful Dead in concert, circa 1970. From left to right, drummer Bill Kreutzmann, lead singer Jerry Garcia and bassist Phil Lesh. (Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

The creator behind many Grateful Dead lyrics died Monday night at age 78.

Robert Hunter’s family released a statement confirming his passing.

“It is with great sadness we confirm our beloved Robert passed away yesterday night. He died peacefully at home in his bed, surrounded by love. His wife Maureen was by his side holding his hand.”


Robert Hunter met the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garica in 1961. The lyricists originally turned down Garcia’s offer to join Garcia’s then band. Hunter continued studying writing at Stanford University until the songs in his head piled up and he eventually dropped out.

In an interview with Alan Paul, Hunter told the story about how he joined the band. Hunter was living in New Mexico at the time and sent song lyrics to Jerry Gracia and Garica replied.

“He wrote back and said, ‘Why don’t you come back to California and be our lyricist?’ So, I hitchhiked back to San Francisco and met up with them in Rio Nido. They were working on ‘Dark Star,’ and I wrote the lyrics to it right then. It just started working immediately.”

Most of the songs Hunter wrote were in collaboration with Jerry Garcia. The two talents together led to the Grateful Dead’s biggest hits. Songs like “Touch of Grey,” “Casey Jones,” “Box of Rain,” “Uncle John’s Band,” “Sugar Magnolia,” “Brokedown Palace” and “Friend of the Devil” came to life because of Hunter’s way with words.


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