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Sunday Lectionary — On “Ripple” –aka– Psalm 23 (Full screen is more effective)

The Grateful Dead debuted this Tarot video on Dec 17, 2020

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

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

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

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




In Performance:

Exeunt Omnes


And begin again

Basic Ripple Backgrounding: Ripple by Grateful Dead – Songfacts

This song, which was recorded in a country-folk style, was written by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter. Hunter was not a performing member of the band, but wrote the lyrics to many of their songs. Hunter’s words were often very poetic, lending themselves to interpretation. In this song, he writes about the joy of music in the air and how we must all choose our own path.

The Dead performed an electric version of “Ripple” at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland, on September 3, 1988. It was the first they’d done so since 1971. According to Dennis McNally’s A Long Strange Trip (p. 571), this came after Bob Weir got the request from a young man who was dying of an unidentified illness. Upon getting the request, Weir bet Garcia $10 that he wouldn’t be able to remember the lyrics. Garcia took the bet and won. Weir, however, never paid up.

Dead chroniclers and fans have noted multiple connections between “Ripple” and the Old Testament’s Psalm 23. The harp mentioned at the beginning suggest the musical instrument that traditionally accompanied the psalms. The still water, the cup, the road at night, and some other subtle pieces all suggest a connection.

Dennis McNally also notes that about 30 friends and neighbors, all untrained singers, were brought in to sing the final chorus, “just like a church service almost anywhere.”
This song was featured in the movie Mask, starring Eric Stoltz it was also used in the miniseries Taken.
Jerry Garcia spotted old pal David Grisman while playing softball with members of Jefferson Airplane. Garcia asked his friend, unplanned, to play mandolin for “Ripple.” Grisman agreed and is on the final studio version. He also plays mandolin on “Friend Of The Devil.”

And finally, you can go further down the rabbit hole at…The Annotated “Ripple” Wherein you will find all things Ripple such as:’

“Ripple” is a song lyric by Robert Hunter. Its genre, therefore, is song. A true song is meant to be sung, and so its words must be easy to remember, unless it is an experimental or art song. But Hunter wrote “Ripple” in the folk song tradition during the late 1960’s, with overtones of that Haight-Ashbury era, such as a sense of cosmic oneness, and of East meeting West.

Hunter, in choosing the folk lyric format, has infused it with something new. The first verse, addressing the listener, is about song, about listening to the song and making it your own. Hunter begins the verse by invoking the elements of song: words and tune, so that the listener is prepared to think about the song. The poet expresses concern that the song be sung by other people, opening up a discussion of the relationship between the singer and the listener, who will also, it is hoped, come to be the singer, in turn.

So the relationship between poet and reader is unity; they are both the poet. In this way, the original poet breaks out of mortality, since his thoughts will continue to generate new thoughts”

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • ghostsniper August 25, 2018, 6:21 PM

    Dang. I thought this was about cheap assed wine.
    And Thunderbird, Boones Farm, MD 20/20, Muscatel, and the legendary Wild Irish Rose.

  • Hale Adams August 25, 2018, 6:52 PM

    To say that the song is profound is to overstate things a wee bit, I think. Some of the verses strike me as nonsensical, but the middle verses (about the fountain, and about the road) have a grain of truth in them, especially if your outlook on life is Judeo-Christian.

    Thanks for the ear-worm, Gerard. But at least it’s a pleasant one. 🙂

    My two cents’ worth, as usual.

    Hale Adams
    Pikesville, People’s still-mostly-Democratic Republic of Maryland

  • Griff August 25, 2018, 8:51 PM

    The artists we worship are false gods like the rest of them. Full of frailty and what the Lord giveth in artistic talent is generally offset by the ability to think clearly. And yet, I beg this community, can we give the Dead a pass? Not the Deadheads, smelly and truly lost and having earned our contempt the old fashioned way. But the band, the legacy, the mountain of recorded history that is so interesting and evocative and comforting. The music that brings joy and nostalgia and remembrance. It wasn’t ever that deep but there’s just so much of it to savor. I could do without the one world multi-whatever video but the joy, so much joy right there whenever you want it or need it.

  • Son of Rusty Shackleford August 26, 2018, 5:18 AM

    You lost me when I saw David Crosby’s bloated torso.

  • Christopher August 26, 2018, 8:20 AM

    It is bizzare, I heard the song for the first time a week ago and brought the Album American Beauty.

  • Howard Nelson August 26, 2018, 10:06 AM

    “Ripple in still water
    When there is no pebble tossed
    Nor wind to blow”
    Something found, struggling deep below
    That cannot and was never lost.

  • Skorpion August 26, 2018, 11:59 AM

    Always thought the Dead were the most *American* of rock bands. They had solid roots in bluegrass, country, blues, folk, and rock, and mixed in all sorts of other elements ranging from jazz, to electronic music, to African and Latin touches. And so much of their lyrical content recalled American archetypes — cowboys, gandy dancers, miners, hoboes, prisoners, sailors — noting hardship and struggle, as well as hope and humor. “A band beyond description,” indeed.

  • steve walsh August 26, 2018, 1:45 PM

    Wonderful song, for all the reasons mentioned above. Fun to play and sing too.

  • ck August 26, 2018, 3:07 PM

    Absolutely wonderful.

  • Avery Burns August 30, 2018, 12:59 PM

    What a wonderful cover of one of my favorite Dead Head songs!
    Brings tear. Don’t know why. It always has.

  • gwbnyc December 27, 2020, 2:10 PM

    inspired by Kerouac’s use of teletype roll paper while composing his landmark “On and On and On the Road” this recording actually began in 1965 and never stopped, with occasional brief voiceovers giving what is always the same song a different name.

    Jerry’s still on the needle but it’s the one skipping on a record.

  • Kevin in PA December 27, 2020, 2:29 PM

    Nice find, Gerard!
    As a veteran of somewhere around 75 shows, I’m always interested to find new and unusual bits and pieces. Ha! The memories.
    Scorpion gets it!
    A band beyond description.
    And by their own admission: “We may not be the best at what we do, but we are the only ones that do what we do!”

  • Robert Kendall December 27, 2020, 3:35 PM

    wow, thank you. you really knocked it out of the park today!

  • arcs December 28, 2020, 3:01 AM

    Frisson, Avery. Frisson.

    I learned that here.

  • Dirk December 28, 2020, 7:58 AM

    Dead heads! We’ve enjoyed their music for what it is, past fifty years.

    I met my wife at a Jerry Garcia Band show at the Grass Valley Fairgrounds, some thirty eight years ago. ” I knew her in high school as one of my friends, steady girl”

    I’d been seeing the world for8 years, and she had recently graduated from Chico State, with her masters in education.

    The Dead, the band members have been apart of our lives as long as we can remember.


  • Snakepit Kansas December 28, 2020, 4:25 PM

    You left out the venerable Canei. I thought I was somewhat sophistcated when I brought over a bottle of that to the apartment of a Mexican chic I dated so many many years ago.

  • Not smelly, not stoned December 28, 2020, 6:18 PM

    Ah, the Dead. Thank you for this, Gerard. It is a lot of happy. This song has a way of lifting one’s heart and restoring hope.
    And as always, when someone talks about the Dead, there’s a little BS. (Not you) In the article (mcNally) it says that Ripple was performed “electric” in 88, after a hiatus since 71. And yet you have a vid from 1980, although it is acoustic, it is evidence that the song was not put away. I also strongly doubt Bob would remember he made that bet, much less whether he paid it off. More likely he was the one that would not remember. Also, as a someone who has seen around 80 shows between 82 and 89 I am fairly sure Ripple has been played, and on electric.