Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter dies at 78

Robert Hunter, the poet famous for writing many of the Grateful Dead’s best regarded songs, has died at 78.

“It is with great sadness we confirm our beloved Robert passed away yesterday night,” Hunter’s family said in a statement released to Rolling Stone. “He died peacefully at home in his bed, surrounded by love. His wife Maureen was by his side holding his hand. For his fans that have loved and supported him all these years, take comfort in knowing that his words are all around us, and in that way his is never truly gone.  In this time of grief please celebrate him the way you all know how, by being together and listening to the music. Let there be songs to fill the air.”

Hunter wrote most of the Dead’s songs with Jerry Garcia and was renowned for bringing a literary sensibility to the band’s songs, in collaborations that included their biggest radio and video hit, “Touch of Grey,” as well as classics like “Casey Jones,” “Dark Star,” “Box of Rain,” “Uncle John’s Band,” “Sugar Magnolia,” “Brokedown Palace” and “Friend of the Devil.” One of the most famous lines in rock, “What a long, strange trip it’s been,” came from Hunter’s pen in the early FM staple “Truckin’.”

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UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1965: Photo of Grateful Dead when they started playing as the Warlocks (Photo by Paul Ryan/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1965: Photo of Grateful Dead when they started playing as the Warlocks (Photo by Paul Ryan/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - SEPTEMBER 15: Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead rehearses at the Hollywood Bowl on September 15, 1967 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JUNE 8: The Grateful Dead (L-R Bill Kreutzmann (drums), Phil Lesh and Bob Weir) perform at the Cafe Au Go Go on June 8, 1967 in New York City, New York. (Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO - CIRCA 1968: Mickey Hart of the rock and roll band 'The Grateful Dead' poses for a portrait under graffiti that reads 'Acid' on Portrero Hill in circa 1968 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Malcolm Lubliner/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO - CIRCA 1968: L-R: Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh of the rock and roll group 'The Grateful Dead' pose for a portrait session on Portrero Hill in circa 1968 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Malcolm Lubliner/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
JUNE 20: Back cover of the rock and roll band 'Grateful Dead's' album Aoxomoxoa with a 5-year-old Courtney Love in the bottom right corner which was released June 20, 1969. Her father Hank Harrison was their manager. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - circa 1970: (AUSTRALIA OUT) Photo of GRATEFUL DEAD (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970: Photo of Grateful Dead (Photo by Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
The Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, portrait, London, 4th April 1972. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
A portrait of Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead at the Tivoli in April 1972 in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)
Watkins Glen Rock Festival, Summer Jam at Watkins Glen, N.Y. with The Allman Brothers Band, Grateful Dead and The Band performing. 600,000 rock buffs streamed in for a one-day concert inside a race track. (Photo By: Richard Corkery/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
Watkins Glen Rock Festival, Summer Jam at Watkins Glen, N.Y. with The Allman Brothers Band, Grateful Dead and The Band performing. 600,000 rock buffs streamed in for a one-day concert inside a race track. (Photo By: Richard Corkery/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
Bob Weir (left) and Ron 'Pigpen' McKernan (1945-1973) of American rock band The Grateful Dead, 4th April 1972. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 09: ALEXANDRA PALACE Photo of Jerry GARCIA and GRATEFUL DEAD, Jerry Garcia (Photo by Mick Gold/Redferns)
SAN FRANCISCO - SEPTEMBER 1975: Drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart perform with The Grateful Dead at a free concert in Golden Gate Park in September 1975 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ed Perlstein/Redferns/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 28, 1975: Singer Jerry Garcia performs with The Grateful Dead at Lindley Meadow in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California, September 28, 1975. (Photo by Alvan Meyerowitz/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01: Photo of GRATEFUL DEAD and Jerry GARCIA (Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns)
SAN FRANCISCO - JUNE 1976: The Grateful Dead (L to R: Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, Bob Weir, Jerry Garcia) perform on New Years Eve 1977 at Winterland in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ed Perlstein/Redferns/Getty Images)
OAKLAND - OCTOBER 9: Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir performing with 'the Grateful Dead' in Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California on October 9, 1976. (Photo by Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
More than 125,000 rock fans from down the road and across the nation jame Englishtown's Raceway in Old Bridge, N.J. for concert featuring the Grateful Dead. Beer, booze and joints were the order of the day for the mellow, jovial crowd. Early arrivals lined up outside crowded liquor stores, while scalpers hawked $10 tickets for $20. roads leading to the raceway were clogged for miles, a 15,000 car parking lot was filled four hours before the music started. the concert grounds were more mud than grass but Dead fans, who traveled from as far as New Mexico and California to hear their idol group, didn't seem to mind.(Photo By: Harry Hamburg/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO - DECEMBER 1977: The Grateful Dead perform on New Years Eve 1977 at Winterland in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ed Perlstein/Redferns/Getty Images)
More than 125,000 rock fans from down the road and across the nation jame Englishtown's Raceway in Old Bridge, N.J. for concert featuring the Grateful Dead. Beer, booze and joints were the order of the day for the mellow, jovial crowd. Early arrivals lined up outside crowded liquor stores, while scalpers hawked $10 tickets for $20. roads leading to the raceway were clogged for miles, a 15,000 car parking lot was filled four hours before the music started. the concert grounds were more mud than grass but Dead fans, who traveled from as far as New Mexico and California to hear their idol group, didn't seem to mind. Crutches can't keep Dead fan down. (Photo By: James McGrath/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
More than 125,000 rock fans from down the road and across the nation jame Englishtown's Raceway in Old Bridge, N.J. for concert featuring the Grateful Dead. Beer, booze and joints were the order of the day for the mellow, jovial crowd. Early arrivals lined up outside crowded liquor stores, while scalpers hawked $10 tickets for $20. roads leading to the raceway were clogged for miles, a 15,000 car parking lot was filled four hours before the music started. the concert grounds were more mud than grass but Dead fans, who traveled from as far as New Mexico and California to hear their idol group, didn't seem to mind. Warmup group, New Riders of the Purple Sage does just that to mellow crowd. (Photo By: Keith Torrie/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 5 -- Pictured: Musical guests The Grateful Dead: (l-r) Bob Weir, Donna Godchaux, Jerry Garcia perform on November 11, 1978 (Photo by Fred Hermansky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SANTA BARBARA, CA - JUNE 4: The Grateful Dead (L to R: Bob Weir, Donna Godchaux) perform at Santa Barbara Stadium on June 4, 1978 in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by Ed Perlstein/Redferns/Getty Images)
The Grateful Dead perform at the Uptown Theater, Chicago, Illinois, January 31, 1978. (Photo by Kirk West/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 31: The Grateful Dead celebrate New Year's Eve with a balloon drop at the Oakland Auditorium on December 31, 1979. (Photo by Clayton Call/Redferns)
Grateful Dead fans outside of Radio City Music Hall in New York City on September 21, 1980. (Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns)
Grateful Dead fans outside of Radio City Music Hall in New York City on September 21, 1980. (Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns)
BERKELEY, CA - SEPTEMBER 1981: The Grateful Dead perform at the Greek Theater in September 1981 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Ed Perlstein/Redferns/Getty Images)
BERKELEY, UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 12: Mickey Hart performing with the Grateful Dead at the Greek Theater in Berkeley on September 12, 1981. (Photo by Clayton Call/Redferns)
PALO ALTO, CA - OCTOBER 1982: Bill Kreutzmann performs with The Grateful Dead at Frost Amphitheater in October 1982 in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Ed Perlstein/Redferns/Getty Images)
9-1983; Bill Eveleigh from Ft. Collins Cheers as the Grateful Dead are introduced, Bill is wearing a Grateful Dead teeshirt a sign that is he is a true Dead Head; (Photo By Dave Buresh/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
BERKELEY, CA - AUGUST 14: Atmosphere as Grateful Dead perform at the Greek Theater on August 14, 1983 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 31: The Grateful Dead performing at the San Francisco Civic Center on December 31, 1984. (Photo by Clayton Call/Redferns)
BERKELEY, UNITED STATES - JUNE 15: The Grateful Dead performing at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, California on June 15, 1985. (Photo by Clayton Call/Redferns)
BERKELEY, CA - JULY 22: Jerry Garcia performing with 'The Grateful Dead' at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, CA on July 22, 1986. (Photo by Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
EAST TROY, WI - JUNE 26: Bob Weir (L) and Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead perform at Alpine Valley Amphitheatre on June 26, 1987 in East Troy, Wisconsin. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
BERKELEY, CA - AUGUST 29: Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead performs at the Greek Theater on August 29, 1989 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
PALO ALTO, CA - MAY 2: Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead performs at Frost Amphitheater on May 2, 1989 in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 07: Grateful Dead (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 07: Grateful Dead (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA - AUGUST 14: (EDITORS NOTE: Multiple exposure made in camera) Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead performs at Cal Expo Amphitheatre on August 14, 1991 in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA - MAY 21: Atmosphere as the Grateful Dead perform at Cal Expo Amphitheatre on May 21, 1992 in Mountain View, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
233743 02: A small shrine for Jerry Garcia is on display in Central Park August 19, 1995 in New York City. Despite efforts by law enforcement to disperse mourners, hundreds of people attended an impromptu memorial service for Grateful Dead leader Garcia. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Liaison)
Tie-dye-clad hippie icon Hugh Wavy Gravy Romney leaning over to smell boquet of flowers during memorial service for Grateful Dead front-man Jerry Garcia at Golden Gate Park. (Photo by Kim Komenich/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
Crowd of Deadheads gathered w. arms up during memorial service for Grateful Dead front-man Jerry Garcia at Golden Gate Park. (Photo by Kim Komenich/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
233743 04: Two mourners sit beside a homemade sign in memory of Jerry Garcia in Central Park August 19, 1995 in New York City. Despite efforts by law enforcement to disperse mourners, hundreds of people attended an impromptu memorial service for Grateful Dead leader Garcia. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Liaison)
LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES: Grateful Dead drummer Micky Hart rehearses for a performance at the Democratic National Convention in the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, 17 August, 2000. AFP PHOTO/Paul J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - APRIL 26: Former Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh (R) performs with former Phish bassist Mike Gordon during the 5th Annual Jammy Awards at Madison Square Garden Theater April 26, 2005 in New York. The awards honor improvisational musicians. (Photo by Daniel Pierce Wright/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 23: Musician and founding member of the Grateful Dead, Bob Weir attends the screening of 'The Other One: The Long, Strange Trip of Bob Weir' during the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival at BMCC Tribeca PAC on April 23, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Desiree Navarro/WireImage)
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Hunter also wrote with others, most famously Bob Dylan, starting with “Silvio” in 1988 and continuing through nearly the entirety of the 2009 album “Together Through Life” and the track “Duquesne Whistle” on 2012’s “Tempest,” Dylan’s last album of original material.

In 2013, the Americana Music Association gave Hunter its lifetime achievement award for songwriting. In 2015, he was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame along with the late Garcia.

Hunter released or recorded a dozen solo albums, starting with “Tales of the Great Rum runners” in 1974 and continuing into the 1990s. He also issued a series of books that included annotated volumes of Dead lyrics and translations of the work of Rainer Maria Rilke as well as his own poems.

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