Victim Or The Crime

Lyrics: Gerrit Graham, Bob Weir
Music: Bob Weir

Patience runs out on the junkie (note 1)
The dark side hires another soul (note 2)
Did he steal his fate or earn it
Was he force-fed, did he learn it
Whatever happened to his precious self control

Like him I'm tired of trying to heal
This tom-cat heart with which I'm blessed
Is destruction loving's twin
Must I choose to lose or win
Maybe when my turn comes I will have guessed

These are the horns of the dilemma
What truth is proof against all lies
When sacred fails before profane (note 3)
The wisest man is deemed insane
Even the purest of romantics compromise

What fixation feeds this fever (note 4)
As the full moon pales and climbs
Am I living truth or rank deceiver
Am I the victim or the crime
Am I the victim or the crime
Am I the victim or the crime
Or the crime

And so I wrestle with the angel
To see who'll reap the seeds I sow
Am I the driver or the driven
Will I be damned to be forgiven
Is there anybody here but me who needs to know

What it is to face this fever
As the full moon pales and climbs
Am I living truth or rank deceiver
Am I the victim or the crime
Am I the victim or the crime
Am I the victim or the crime
Or the crime
(1) on 16 October 1988 Bob sang "Patience runs out on the bunny." See below for background to the writing of this song, and this line in particular.
(2) according to Gerrit Graham, Weir changed this from "The demon hires another soul" to "The dark side ..."
(3) originally "When sacred quails before profane", accoridng to Graham
(4) the interview with Gerrit Graham referenced below says the chorus was the first part written, principally by Bob Weir. Graham contributed "Am I living proof or rank deceiver", which Weir changes to "... living truth ..."

Grateful Dead Recordings
     Date Album
     28 Jun 1988 30 Days Of The Dead (2016)
     16 Oct 1988 30 Days Of The Dead (2014)
     studio 1989 Built To Last
      3 Apr 1989 Download Series Vol 9
      9 Jul 1989 Giants Stadium 1987, 1989, 1991 Boxed Set
      8 Oct 1989 Warlocks Box
     15 Oct 1989 Without A Net 
     26 Oct 1989 30 Trips Around The Sun
     31 Dwc 1989 30 Days Of The Dead (2023)
     26 Mar 1990 Spring 1990
      1 Apr 1990 Spring 1990 (The Other One)
     12 Jul 1990 View From The Vault II (DVD & CD soundtrack)
     19 Jul 1990 Dave's Picks Volume 40
     25 Sep 1991 Dick's Picks 17
     26 May 1993 Road Trips Vol 2, No 4
     26 Jun 1994 30 Days Of The Dead (2019)
Bob Weir Recordings
      fall 1988 Weir/Wasserman: Live Bob Weir and Rob Wasserman
      5 Sep 1989 Fall 1989: The Long Island Sound Bob Weir and Rob Wasserman

The only cover I know of is a YouTube video by Accident Of Birth, apparently also released as a DVD. They change the line "Was he force fed, did he learn it" to "He was force fed, he unlearned it". See also this for more info.

See the fascinating article by Gerrit Graham on the writing of "Victim or the Crime." It was originally performed by Bob Weir with Bobby & The Midnites in 1983, and subsequently by Weir and Wasserman. It wasn't played by the Grateful Dead until 1988 (though this interview on Grateful Dead Hour No. 59 in 1989 reveals that Weir first showed it to Garcia for the benefit concert they did with Joan Baez in San Francisco on 17 December 1987. There's a recording of this performance on YouTube.)

Graham discusses the controversy over the opening line "Patience runs out on the junkie", and lists the various alternatives considered and rejected: "flunky", "monkey", "bunny", "luckless" etc.

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 David Dodd's discussion of this song on see Greatest Stories Ever Told
For online chords and TAB see
For sheet music, see:
          Grateful Dead Anthology Volume 2 (piano arrangement)
          Built To Last Songbook (piano arrangment)
          Without A Net Songbook (piano arrangement)


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