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What If Robert Hunter and John Mayer Wrote a Song Together?

It’s a question that might send die-hard fans of the Grateful Dead into existential turmoil: What if Robert Hunter, the poetic luminary behind iconic Dead lyrics, and John Mayer, the pop artist turned Dead & Company guitarist, joined forces to pen a song?

Hunter’s longtime collaboration with Jerry Garcia is the stuff of legend. John Mayer, on the other hand, has been a divisive figure, stepping into Garcia’s lead guitar role when Dead & Company formed.

As D&C closed their final tour in the summer of 2023, Mayer left an indelible, if polarizing, imprint on the Dead’s enduring legacy.

Just yesterday, October 18th 2023 at a solo show in Chicago, Mayer raised eyebrows by weaving together “Dark Star > Body is a Wonderland > Dark Star” and “Bertha > Age of Worry > Bertha Reprise,” which has gone viral.

So, let’s venture into this fascinating “what if” scenario.

John Mayer – “Bertha > Age of Worry > Bertha”

John Mayer – “Dark Star > Your Body is a Wonderland”

The Lyricist: Robert Hunter

Robert Hunter was the literary force behind many of the Grateful Dead’s most cherished songs, including “Ripple,” “Friend of the Devil,” and “Dark Star.” His partnership with Jerry Garcia was, in essence, the beating heart of the Dead’s emotional and lyrical universe.

Hunter brought a literary depth to the Dead’s music that can be traced back to American folk traditions and beyond. There’s no denying the gravity and lasting impact of his contributions to the Dead’s expansive discography.

The Musician: John Mayer

John Mayer is a study in contrasts when it comes to the Dead universe. Known for hits like “Gravity” and “Your Body is a Wonderland,” Mayer entered the world of the Dead as a guitarist for Dead & Company. While some fans welcomed his bluesy technique and fresh energy, others questioned whether he was the right fit for a role once filled by the iconic Jerry Garcia.

Mayer’s performance in Chicago, with jarring segues from “Dark Star” into “Body is a Wonderland” and back again, as well as “Bertha” into “Age of Worry,” drew a cacophony of reactions online.

It’s evident that Mayer is not afraid to take creative risks, even if it stokes the fire of purist debates.

Artwork created with Midjourney.

The Hypothetical Song: A Creative Odyssey

Just imagine the alchemy of Hunter’s lyrical storytelling with Mayer’s modern, genre-blurring approach. Hunter might bring an old-world, folkish mystique to the table, possibly infused with mythological or historical references. Mayer, in turn, could bring a contemporary pop-rock flair that touches on themes of love, introspection, and existential questions. The fusion could very well be a sonic adventure that respects the Dead’s roots while branching out into new, explorative territories.

Full Lyrics of The Hypothetical Song (For Your Imagination)

Note: These lyrics are purely fictional, so bear with us.

“Rollin’ Riverside Blues”

[Verse 1]

In the shadow of the moonlight, by the river’s edge,
Found a locket and a letter, left unsaid.
Silent whispers on the water, trace your name in air,
Oh, I reckon love’s a gamble, none compare.


Rollin’ riverside blues, wash my sins away,
In this muddy water, will I find my way?
The cards are on the table, but the game’s not fair,
Riverside blues, tell me, do you care?

[Verse 2]

Empty bottles line the pathway, to your distant door,
Heard you’re dealing with a heartache, maybe more.
Fickle fates may come a’calling, but I’ll stand my ground,
With this guitar and a dream, that’s all I’ve found.


Rollin’ riverside blues, wash my sins away,
In this muddy water, will I find my way?
The cards are on the table, but the game’s not fair,
Riverside blues, tell me, do you care?


Guitar solo that allows John Mayer to pour his bluesy soul into every note.

[Verse 3]

So I’ll pen this song as tribute, to the love we’ve lost,
Where the river meets the ocean, what’s the cost?
In the arms of new tomorrows, may we find our peace,
Though we gamble with our hearts, the river’s ceased.


Rollin’ riverside blues, we’ve played our part,
In this river of emotion, find a brand new start.
Rollin’ riverside blues, farewell my dear,
The sun is set, the path ahead is clear.


It’s fun to ponder what a Robert Hunter and John Mayer collaboration could look like. The pairing of Hunter’s poetic vision with Mayer’s eclectic versatility might give birth to something wholly unique yet eerily familiar.

It invites us to dream about the unexplored creative intersections between old and new. And who knows, maybe in some alternate universe, this dream collaboration has already happened. Until then, the debate and the dream continue.