Down The Road

Lyrics: Robert Hunter
Music: Hart, Jenkins, Welnick, Hidalgo

Originally played by Mickey Hart with Mystery Box, and then with some of his other bands. Now played by him with The Dead.

Down the road to Union Station running through the fog
I thought I saw Joe Hill last night grinning like a dog
"I understand they did you in for everyone to see"
He smiled - shook his head - "that's a lie," said he
"I been on a mountain top observing from a cloud
Been in the hearts of workers milling with the crowd
My tears are shed for freedom and equality of means
My blood and perspiration oil the gears of your machine"

Down the road again
Down the road again

Down the road to Massachusetts driving through the night
I thought I saw Jack Kennedy hitchhiking by a light
I hit the brakes - backed up slow, and Kennedy got in
I said, "It's nice to see you lookin' back in shape again
Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe they gunned you down"
He just shook his head and looked off sadly with a frown
Said, "bullets are like waves, they only rearrange the sand
History turns upon the tides and not the deeds of man"


Driving down to Fiddler's Green to hear a tune or two
I thought I saw John Lennon there, looking kind of blue
I sat down beside him, said "I thought you bought the store"
He said "I heard that rumour, what can I do you for?"
"Have you written anything I might have never heard?"
He picked up his guitar and strummed a minor third
All I can recall of what he sang, for what it's worth
"Long as songs of mine are sung I'm with you on this earth"


From the corner of my eye I saw the sun explode
I didn't look directly 'cause it would have burned my soul
When the smoke and thunder cleared enough to look around
I heard a sweet guitar lick, an old familiar sound
I heard a laugh I recognised come rolling from the earth
Saw it rise into the skies like lightning giving birth
It sounded like Garcia but I couldn't see the face
Just the beard and the glasses and a smile on empty space

The song at one time had an additional verse. Hunter sang it in a solo performance on 1 March 1997, and has since posted the lyrics in his journal: for 14 January 2006
Driving down the road all night, the sun is rising red
Reciting songs and stories, conversing with the dead
I pulled into Selma, low on gasoline
Been so long on empty, I been riding on a dream
The fellow at the station looked like Martin Luther King
"You're low on oil," he said, with an old familiar ring
"How far to the mountain, friend," I asked him face to face
"You're standing on it now," he said, "You just don't know the place"
(1) Rick sent me the following account of another performance:
"I heard Hunter do this, I believe it was in '99 at the last Further Festival. He played this between sets and when he was doing the Garcia verse he went into a rap on "road" songs. He started with one "road" quote from one song and, flowing forth like a mighty river, smoothly went to another and another until he hit all of them from the Dead's repertoire. It was so beautiful and powerful that people started to cheer and as the rap continued and got more intense the energy from the crowd was like a giant wave rising up....He finished the Garcia verse and then hit the King verse and it was a powerful ending."
In a 1996 interview with David Gans, Mickey Hart explained the background to how this verse came to be replaced with the verse about Garcia:
DG: [Down The Road] must have been one of the last ones that got written?

MH: Oh, yeah, well, it got written, but then Hunter came in and changed the last verse. He said, "You know the fourth verse? I've got a better verse."

DG: Who was it before?

MH: The fourth verse? It was a Martin Luther King verse, you know.

DG: Uh-huh.

MH: I said, "Okay, write it down, let me see it." He said, "No." He said, "Let me sing it." I go, "Okay, man -- go in there, and you know, the mic's set up, go ahead. Let's hear it." And as soon as he was halfway through it, you know, I just looked at him. I realized what he had just done, you know. It was just right on, I mean you can imagine what the control room was like at that very moment.

DG: Yeah.

MH: You know, just Hunter -- he just went outside, you know, [and] lightning struck. It came to him like it usually does, and he just poured it right out. I think he was still writing while he was singing. It's like one of those kind of magical moments, just "shoop" -- "oh, boy, this is exactly perfect." My sentiments exactly, and you know, it couldn't have been -- it was exactly how we were feeling, and of course we were all grieving and everything at this time, it happened right after Jerry went. So this was a like, real spontaneous act on Hunter's part. I mean, I would have never asked him to do it -- it entered my mind, but I couldn't imagine anything that wouldn't be corny, you know, and he managed to do it *very* well. Great sentiment.

Mickey Hart Recordings
     Date Album Recorded By
     studio 1996 Mystery Box Mickey Hart's Mystery Box (note 1)

(1) also on the compilation Over The Edge And Back Again

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


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