Roberta

Lyrics: Traditional arr McKernan
Music: Traditional arr McKernan

Pigpen sang this a couple of times in 1970 in shows billed as "Mickey and His Hartbeats and Bobby Ace and His Cards from the Bottom of the Deck"." No tapes circulated until the release of the 4/18/70 show. See below for a discussion of the origins of this song. This is what Pigpen sings (thanks to Andy McGaan for his help with the transcription):

Roberta, Roberta
How come your dress is hanging so low
Roberta, Roberta
How come your dress is hanging so low
Yes, itís got to be some kind of way
That you wanted your daddy know

Early in the morning
Just before itís dawning
Early in the morning
Just before itís dawning
You know you come walkiní in the door
You said you just been, been out walkiní
Been walkiní awhile

Roberta, Roberta
Whereíd you stay last night
Roberta, Roberta
Where did you stay last night
Yeah, your hairís all messed up, you know
And your pants donít fit you right

I can tell about the money you make
By the clothes you wear
I tell about the tricks you turn
By the color of your hair

Roberta
Where was you last night
That was your day off
Yeah, you know, your pants all messed up
And your stockings donít fit you right
Grateful Dead Recordings
     Date Album
     18 Apr 1970 Family Dog at the Great Highway


Origins

Leadbelly has a song "Roberta" that has something in common with what Pigpen sings, but not all that much. Leadbelly sang several somewhat different versions, of which the best-known goes like this:
Oh Roberta, where you been so long
Oh Roberta, where you been so long
I ain't had no loving since you've been gone

Oh Roberta, sit down on my knee
Oh Roberta, sit down on my knee
I got a lot to tell you that's been worrying me

Way up the river, far as I can see
Way up the river, far as I can see
I thought I spied my old time used to be

And it was not nothing, honey but the side of a tree

Well I'm down on the river, sitting on the ground
Well I'm down on the river, sitting on the ground
Gonna stay right here Lord, until Roberta come down

Roberta, Roberta, where you been so long
Roberta, Roberta, where you been so long
Cross country, with my [?long cold lawn]

There is also a Furry Lewis version with slightly different lyrics:
Tell me Roberta, where you been so long
Tell me Roberta, where you been so long
I ain't had no loving since you've been gone

I see Roberta cross the sea
I see Roberta cross the sea
She didn't write me no letter, she didn't care for me

Tell me Roberta, what you gonna do
Tell me Roberta, what you gonna do
Just a little bit of loving let your heart be true

Roberta, Roberta, you on my mind
Roberta, Roberta, you on my mind
If you cry by the nickel you die by the dime

Roberta left yesterday and I'm going today
Roberta left yesterday and I'm going today
I'm getting tired of your low-down ways
What Pigpen sings has something in common with one verse of "Lightnin' Hopkins' song "Where Did You Stay Last Night":
Tell me, tell me
Little girl, where did you stay last night
Tell me, tell me
Little girl, where did you stay last night
Well I know you come in early this morning
That's when the sun is shining bright
What Pigpen sings also has one verse similar to his version of C C Rider:
C C Rider, where you been all night
C C Rider, where you been all night
Well your head's all messed up and your pants don't fit you right
None of this provides a full picture of where Pigpen got the song from, which remains something of a mystery



Futher Information
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography

 


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