I was twelve years old when I saw the movie Mask and heard the lyrics to “Ripple.” The song is played in the background as Sonny (Cher) finds her son Rocky (Eric Stoltz) dead in his bedroom after suffering from a disease that disfigured him and caused him much physical and emotional pain. I was in hysterics as I watched the scene unfold, yet as Ripple softly played, the lyrics stayed with me, like a lullaby comforting and peaceful. This was my first time hearing the Grateful Dead and it was the beginning of a musically and lyrical love affair with Hunter and Garcia. The song is simple, poetic and has a message that even as a young child I related to. As an adult I would go on to see twenty two Grateful Dead shows around the country before Jerry Garcia died Aug. 9 1995. This song is still able to evoke those emotions and it is rare that I do not cry or tear up a bit when I hear it. The last line of the song has always been my favorite, a reminder that we all get lost sometimes.

Grateful Dead – Ripple

Ripple
Lyrics By: Robert Hunter
Music By: Jerry Garcia

If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung
Would you hear my voice come through the music?
Would you hold it near, as it were your own?

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 (note 1)

Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow

Reach out your hand if your cup be empty
If your cup is full may it be again
Let it be known there is a fountain
That was not made by the hands of man

There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go, no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone

Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow

You who choose to lead must follow
But if you fall, you fall alone
If you should stand, then who’s to guide you?
If I knew the way, I would take you home

(1) on the version on Reckoning, Jerry Garcia says “That’s Otis” at this point, referring to Bob Weir’s dog who had wandered onstage

For another look at Ripple please go to Play on,

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