Because WC Needs Cheering Up: “Ripple”


Sometimes when the world’s and our national crises become overwhelming, music helps. And for WC, the songs of the Grateful Dead are a reliable comfort. The thing about Dead songs is that you can go as deep or as shallow as you want. Take 1970’s  “Ripple,” for example. Robert Hunter lyrics and Jerry Garcia tune, it’s been covered by a lot of folks. WC is fond of the Playing for Change version.

Hunter’s lyrics are packed with references, biblical, Walt Whitman, the Upshanid and more. The chorus is a haiku, for Bog’s sake. WC challenges you to name another hit pop song whose chorus is a haiku.

In a live concert, the Dead would jam, passing solos and duets around. But as delightful as the tune is, the lyrics always spoke to WC (links are to David Dodd‘s Dead lyrics website):

If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung
Would you hear my voice come through the music
Would you hold it near as it were your own?

It’s a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken
Perhaps they’re better left unsung
I don’t know, don’t really care
Let there be songs to fill the air

(Chorus)
Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow

Reach out your hand if your cup be empty
If your cup is full may it be again
Let it be known there is a fountain
That was not made by the hands of men

There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone

(Chorus)

You who choose to lead must follow
But if you fall you fall alone
If you should stand then who’s to guide you?
If I knew the way I would take you home

Robert Hunter has posted the manuscript of his lyrics on line.

"Ripple," by Robert Hunter

“Ripple,” by Robert Hunter

The last lyric even speaks to the Trumpster, but WC doubts he listens to, let alone understands, Grateful Dead songs.

(“Friend of the Devil” is another WC favorite. Robert Hunter has posted the tale of how it got written. Worth a read if you have time.)

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