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Song for Today #7

This is the best version I could find – the original album version.  I was looking for a live version, but this is pretty hard to beat. It’s a Jerry Garcia and Bob Hunter song – Bob Hunter wrote the lyrics to Black Muddy River when Jerry was in a diabetic coma in 1986. It was the second to last song that the Grateful dead played at the concert on 9th July 1995, just a month before Jerry Garcia died.  If you listen closely to this song from their last show at Soldier Field Jerry actually says “the LAST muddy river” in one of the verses. He emphasizes the word very clearly so there is no doubt that it was not an accident.  
The song that closes the 1995 concer is another Bob Hunter lyric, from much earlier – Box of Rain.  Hunter wrote the song with bassist Phil Lesh, at a time when Lesh’s father was dying.
“Lesh wanted a song to sing to his dying father and had composed a piece complete with every vocal nuance but the words. If ever a lyric ‘wrote itself,’ this did – as fast as the pen would pull.”  Lesh practiced the song driving to the nursing home where his father lay with terminal cancer.
The river picture in ‘Black Muddy River’ is a very ancient metaphor for death, and here in the lyric ‘I don’t care how deep or wide, if you’ve got another side,’ the hope is held out that this life is not the end. 
Even more than that … the words can speak not only of the aloneness that we face when dealing with suffering, but also of the hope that we will get through the trials that we are currently facing.
When the last rose of summer pricks my finger
And the hot sun chills me to the bone
When I can’t hear the song for the singer
And I can’t tell my pillow from a stone

I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own
I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own

When the last bolt of sunshine hits the mountain
And the stars start to splatter in the sky
When the moon splits the southwest horizon
With the scream of an eagle on the fly

I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And listen to the ripples as they moan
I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own

Black muddy river
Roll on forever
I don’t care how deep or wide
If you got another side
Roll muddy river, roll muddy river
Black muddy river roll

When it seems like the night will last forever
And there’s nothing left to do but count the years
When the strings of my heart start to sever
And stones fall from my eyes instead of tears

I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And dream me a dream of my own
I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own
And sing me a song of my own

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