Singer-songwriter Robert Hunter dies, aged 78

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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

On Monday, US singer and lyricist Robert Hunter died at his home in San Rafael, California. His family's announcement of his death specified no cause, but, according to his agent, Hunter had undergone surgery recently. The former lyricist of rock band Grateful Dead was 78.

Hunter seated, playing guitar and singing
Robert Hunter, 2013.
Image: Brian Gatens.

Hunter composed lyrics for several songs by US psychedelic rock band the Grateful Dead, including many of their biggest hits. He also collaborated with Dead associates Mickey Hart and Bruce Hornsby and artists such as Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, and Jim Lauderdale.

Born Robert Burns in Arroyo Grande, California on June 23, 1941, he took his stepfather's name sometime in his youth and met future Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia when both were in their late teens. The duo formed a brief musical partnership that was interrupted by Garcia joining a bluegrass band and Hunter having personal complications from participation in Project MKUltra, a CIA mind control program to test psychedelic drugs on US citizens.

After Hunter retreated to New Mexico and continued to write songs he would mail to Garcia in the San Francisco Bay Area, Garcia invited him to collaborate in Garcia's new group, the Grateful Dead. Hunter joined the group as a songwriter, providing lyrics to songs such as "Dark Star", "Uncle John's Band", and "Truckin'" throughout the late 1960s and into the 1970s.

He continued as a solo performer, releasing several albums and occasionally touring into the 2010s. He also wrote for other artists, including co-writing several songs on folk rock musician Bob Dylan's 2009 release Together Through Life.

Hunter is survived by wife Maureen.

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