It Must Have Been The Roses

Lyrics: Robert Hunter
Music: Robert Hunter

One of only two songs where the Dead played Robert Hunter's music as well as his lyrics.

Annie laid her head down in the roses (note a)
She had ribbons, ribbons, ribbons in her long brown hair
I don't know, maybe it was the roses
All I know, I could not leave her there

Chorus (note b)
I don't know, it must have been the roses
The roses or the ribbons in her long brown hair
I don't know, maybe it was the roses
All I know, I could not leave her there

Ten years the waves rolled the ships home from the sea
Thinking well how it may blow in all good company
If I tell another what your own lips told to me
Let me lay 'neath the roses and my eyes no longer see


One pane of glass in the window
No one is complaining, though, come in and shut the door
Faded is the crimson from the ribbons that she wore (note c)
And it's strange how no one comes round any more

(a) In his solo versions, Robert Hunter repeats this verse at the end. In at least one occasion (in 1977, with Comfort), he varied the second line as "She had lilies of the valley in her long brown hair."
(b) In his solo versions, Robert Hunter adds "Rose, rose, rose. Rose, rose, rose" to the end of the chorus.
(c) In the first public performance on 22 February 1974, Jerry sang "Faded is the color of the ribbons that she wore". (thanks to David Gans for pointing this out)

Grateful Dead Recordings
     Date Album
     22 Feb 1974 Dave's Picks Volume 42 (bonus disc)
     24 Feb 1974 Dave's Picks Volume 13
     14 May 1974 Dave's Picks Volume 9
     17 May 1974 Pacific Northwest '73-'74
     19 May 1974 Pacific Northwest '73-'74
     21 May 1974 Pacific Northwest '73-'74
     19 Jul 1974 Dave's Picks Volume 17
     31 Jul 1974 Dave's Picks Volume 2
      5 Aug 1974 Dick's Picks Vol 31
     20 Oct 1974 Steal Your Face
     13 Aug 1975 One From The Vault
     28 Sep 1975 30 Trips Around The Sun
      9 Jun 1976 Road Trips Volume 4, Number 5
     11 Jun 1976 June 1976 Box Set
     15 Jun 1976 June 1976 Box Set
      3 Oct 1976 30 Trips Around The Sun
     18 May 1977 30 Days Of The Dead (2014)
     1 Oct 1977 Dave's Picks Volume 45
     29 Oct 1977 Dave's Picks Vol 33
      4 Nov 1977 Dave's Picks Volume 12
      5 Nov 1977 Dick's Picks Vol 34
     22 Apr 1978 Dave's Picks Vol 15
     24 Apr 1978 Dave's Picks Volume 7
     14 May 1978 30 Trips Around The Sun
      8 Jul 1978 July 1978: The Complete Recordings
     10 Oct 1980 The Warfield, San Francisco, CA 10/9/80 & 10/10/80
     23 Oct 1980 Reckoning (note 1)
     26 Oct 1980 Reckoning
     30 Nov 1980 Dave's Picks Volume 8
     10 Mar 1981 In And Out Of The Garden
      7 Aug 1982 Dick's Picks Vol 32
     26 Apr 1983 Dave's Picks Volume 39
     12 Oct 1983 In And Out Of The Garden
     20 Apr 1984 Dave's Picks Volume 35
     14 Jun 1984 30 Days Of The Dead (2018)
     12 Oct 1984 30 Trips Around The Sun
     22 Mar 1990 Spring 1990
     25 Sep 1991 Dick's Picks 17
Dead-related recordings
     Date Album Recorded By
     1973 Untitled Robert Hunter
     1974 Tales Of The Great Rum Runners Robert Hunter (note 2)
     studio 1976 Reflections Jerry Garcia (note 3)
     1985 Live '85 Robert Hunter
(Plus live recordings by The Dead, Furthur, Dead & Company, Ratdog, Phil Lesh & Friends etc not listed here. See Grateful Dead Family Discography for a full list.)
Covers By Other Artists
     Date Album Recorded By
     16 Apr 1987 Stolen Roses Elvis Costello
     2000 Dead Grass Vassar Clements
     2000 Might As Well The Persuasions (note 4)
     2001 Blues Tribute To The Grateful Dead Various (Charles Butler)
     2003 The Tussler (re-issue) Motorpsycho
     2005 Jerry Jams, Jerry Cares Catherine Moon and Josh Rubin
     2008 Fennario: Songs by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter Emory Joseph
     2009 Acoustic Sessions Vol 1 Real Eyes
     2015 Songs Of Their Own Alex Bleeker & The Freaks
     2018 Cut The Dead Some Slack Stephen Inglis
(1) additional version issued as a bonus track in the box set Beyond Description (1973-1990)
(2) also on the Robert Hunter compilation Promontory Rider
(3) although it is included on a Jerry Garcia Band CD, this recording was made by all the members of the Grateful Dead.
(4) re-released in 2011 on "Persuasions of the Dead"

Robert Hunter introduced this song in a 1979 solo performance:
"This is a song I wrote for a friend of mine, Butch Waller of High Country - a great bluegrass band [on the] West Coast. They never got around to doing it, [so] I finally recorded it myself [on my] first record."
In a 2004 interview with Blair Jackson, Robert Hunter said:
"I think I had a bit of [William] Faulkner's story "A Rose for Miss Emily" [sic - the correct title is "A Rose for Emily"] in mind when I wrote it, which is a rather morbid story. There's more than that, but there's a touch of the deep emotionality of "A Rose for Miss Emily" in it".
Nicholas Meriwether contributed an essay, "Robert Hunter, William Faulkner and 'It Must Have Been the Roses', to the book he edited 'All Graceful Instruments: The Context Of The Grateful Dead Phenomenon'. This discusses at length the links between the song and "A Rose For Emily"

In live performances (for example on "Live 85") Robert Hunter sometimes included the Robbie Burns poem "Red, Red Rose":
My love is like a red, red rose
That's laid in summer bloom
My love is like a melody
That's sweetly play'd in tune
As fair art thou, my bonnie lass
So deep in love am I
And I will love thee still
Till all the seas gang dry

Till all the seas gang dry, my love
And the rocks melt wi' the sun
And I will love thee still, my dear
While the sands o' life shall run
And fare thee well, my own true luve,
And fare thee well a while
And I will come again my love
Tho' it were ten thousand mile

Further Information
For an online discussion of the lyrics to this song see the deadsongs.vue conference on The Well.
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography
For information on references in the lyrics see David Dodd's Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics
For online chords and TAB see
For sheet music, see:
          Grateful Dead Anthology Volume 1 (piano arrangement)


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