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If I Knew The Way, I Would Take You Home


One of the most respectable qualities I find in a person is the ability to admit that they haven’t a clue. Because, let’s face it, none of us have all the answers and to pretend that we do is unproductive, arrogant, and potentially dangerous. For example, (a big example), religion. I respect your beliefs, whatever they may be, whichever God you may worship, but I think a little humility is necessary. In our earthly existence, none of us can possibly know what the “afterlife” holds, who “created” us, or what our “purpose” is to be. So, to hold tight to an educated (or sometimes not so educated) guess to the point of blindness can result, as we have seen, in horrible consequences (i.e., war).

And why even take on the responsibility of knowing it all? What a burden! I promise, if you step back and say out loud “I have no idea what I’m doing” or something of the sort, you will feel pounds drop off of your shoulders. It’s freeing and opens more doors than a know-it-all could imagine.

Who understood this better than the Grateful Dead? While doing some casual morning reading, I came across an article by David Dodd titled, Ambiguity as a philosophical stance in the lyrics of the Grateful Dead which states,

“They [the Grateful Dead] occupy the stage, but the words coming from the stage are not sermons, and they want to be unambiguous about their ambiguity. This is a very practical reflection of the 1960’s values which gave rise to the band: to be “straight”, i.e. sure of oneself and of what one believes, and willing to impose those beliefs on others, is not a desirable quality. This value permeated everything about the band, and is especially noticeable in the lyrics.”

Dodd points out the reoccurring use of lyrics like, “I don’t know” in the songs of the Grateful Dead. Here’s my personal favorite,

“It’s a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken
Perhaps they’re better left unsung
I don’t know, don’t really care
Let there be songs to fill the air”


There’s a plethora of examples which can be found by clicking here or by plugging in your headphones and taking a listen.

To read about the Dead’s intentional ambiguity was a relief. Although I’ve listened to the Dead since I was a kid, it’s just been recently that I’ve looked deeper into the music and attempted to examine all things Dead. And, God love ya Jerry, but sometimes I don’t know what the hell you’re saying. And Robert Hunter, those lyrics have raised eyebrows for me more than once. Turns out, that’s okay. As I believe all music and art should be, the Grateful Dead’s music is up for interpretation. It’s all about what you feel and the experience you get from it. Nobody is here to tell you what it should or does mean. I guess we can call this reason one-hundred and seventy-three for why I love the Grateful Dead.

“Would not my fat girl tell you the reason why?
Fat girls will even do things on the sly
Look for your dinner to be good and hot
She never even put a stew-bone in the pot”

On the Road Again

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 06/17/2010 6:20 pm

    I loooove this! I love it.

    It pisses me off that so many groups these days (I say that tongue-in-cheek, because it’s technically the music of “my” generation) impose their beliefs on their listeners to the point that it overshadows the music – and even the message itself.

    I think the recording industry is partially to blame, shaping music in such a way that bands are scarcely able to distinguish themselves from one another without having some kind of gag or gimmick. But, pop culture is also to blame for liking music that sucks. ;-) I guess it was probably the same back in the Dead’s day, albeit on a smaller scale…a million screaming teenage girls are always going to go for the popular, good-looking Beatles/NSync/New Kids/Jonas Brothers, while the thinkers and the free-spirits will always opt for groups that are more goofy, underground, enigmatic and ambiguous. I’m happy to know there’s still a few of us left!

    Just wrote you a novel here. Sorry about that!

    • 06/17/2010 6:31 pm

      Thanks Marie. Please don’t apologize, I love hearing from you all.

      Good point – musicians/artists often overshadow their work by trying to make it more than what it is or by imposing how THEY see things. It totally takes away their credibility and effectiveness. Stop trying to herd us like sheep and you might actually get somewhere!

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