Longtime Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter certainly was not the first to use the metaphor of a mighty endlessly flowing river to describe the passage of time, but in the Dead hymn “Black Muddy River” which concludes the 1987 In the Dark album as well as my interview with the band’s Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Phil Lesh, Hunter had the clarity and even the courage to see a lifetime in this world to be murky, where you cannot see the bottom or gauge the depth, with relentlessly perilous and unseen cross-currents, swirling eddies, and whirlpools. The paradox of course is that the same black muddy river of time has both the power to sustain life, to transport you away (for better or worse), and yet the potential to drown your life forever.
Along the way Mssrs. Weir, Hart, and Lesh continue to laugh easily and often, frequently at their own expense. When asked how they reacted in the latter Seventies to derision in the Punk Rock era, Mickey Hart seemed perplexed.”We didn’t even notice”, while Phil Lesh was far more challenging.”What ‘era’ ?” Bob Weir had a genuine belly-laugh.” I was made aware from time to time that there were some taking aim at us, but hey, take your shot, guys. And it wasn’t as though we were standing our ground then, either. We were proceeding at a full racing trundle just like we always did!” –Redbeard