Since story lines are vital to interpretation, I decided to highlight some of my favorite storytellers in this blog. This is my second spotlight and features someone whose words have had an impact on the lives of 100’s of thousands but his name is not recognizable to most.
Robert Hunter made a living combining stories and poems rooted in American folk culture while incorporating the new ideas and ideals behind the dramatic social shifts that occurred in our country during the 1960’s. He worked side by side with a man that’s much better known named Jerry Garcia. Whether or not you dig the Grateful Dead’s sound, Hunter’s lyrics comprise a huge body of work that stands on its own and is quite interpretive.
Hunter once wrote “The storyteller makes no choice, soon you will not hear his voice. His job is to shed light not to master.” I wonder if he knows about Heritage Interpretation. He sure described it and many of his lyrics provoke thought. “Lady finger dipped in moonlight writing ‘what for?’ across the morning sky. Sunlight splatters dawn with answers. Darkness shrugs and bids the day goodbye” is an image I have found compelling for years. It gets me interested in learning more, which is of course what we try to accomplish with our audience as interpreters.
In looking at Tilden’s Principles of Interpretation, I’d say Hunter’s stories hit every one- except interpreting to children and that wasn’t the audience. So if rock and roll lyrics are interpretive, what is the resource? The answer is the same as so many great storytellers, our collective experience. And that is a resource that is cultural, historic, and natural!
You can find Robert Hunters’ work in his book Box of Rain https://www.amazon.com/Box-Rain-Lyrics-1965-1993-Penguin/dp/0140134514; or http://artsites.ucsc.edu/GDead/agdl/#songs, a set of annotated lyrics including many by Hunter; or most any Grateful Dead song by Jerry Garcia. Two of my favorites are Ripple https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JT8zLTaKxeE and Days Between https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zr7hMXBRqCE. You might want to check them out. “Once in a while you can get show the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.” -Robert Hunter