top of page

UNorthodox Easter: We Built this City on Rocks that Roll

Updated: Jun 4, 2023

Hey, FUNdementalist: Don't get upset...At least today's the first day of the week...according to some keepers of time (in a a book...on a scroll...)...SO, at least stay for the opening set and see:

  • If the music moves ya...

  • If the Rocks that Roll ignite the fire in your soul...

  • If the tunes help Roll away the Dew from your insides...

...then you'll have two good eyes AND BE ABLE TO SEE...

...and, if you're still not sure...maybe a little confused...there's a PLAYLIST at the you can take the show on the road...and listen to the music play...


I started this post last April (2022)...There are several "reasons" for posting this now. The likely match that lit the MUSE...was listening a few days ago to Starship's "We Built this City"...This song connected me to recent conversations with my therapist and caregiver who's been encouraging me to see myself as a tree...a tree that, in order to survive, must maintain contact with its ROOTS.

This exploration began as a lens through which to see my SPIRITUAL journey...and, with the recent passing of my sister JULIE, it's become a looking glass through which to view my membership in my NATURAL FAMILY.

FYI - I used to call JULIE "my Irish twin" since she was born 364 days after me. I was always the oldest but I'm younger than that now... We are now SIX. To meet Julie, please visit my memories in three posts about her.

For an initial exploration into the role of our ROOTS, please check out this link:

--[Richard Rohr writes:] David Benner, a friend and wise teacher, has been a part of several Christian traditions over the years, including fundamentalism, evangelicalism, and now contemplative Anglicanism. Of the spiritual journey he writes:

Identifying and embracing your lineage is an important part of any pathway to greater wholeness because it involves remembering your own story. All the parts of your journey must be woven together if you are to transcend your present organization and level of consciousness. For myself, the great challenge was re-embracing traditions that I have grown beyond and that offered—even at the time—an oppressively small worldview. I did not want to be an ex-evangelical or an ex-fundamentalist. Too many people live that life of dis-identification, and I did not want to share their anger and “stuckness.” It was essential, therefore, for me to identify and embrace the gifts that had come to me from these traditions. This was the way in which I came to know that everything in my life belongs, that every part of my story has made important contributions to who I am. And the same is true for you. [1]

[more at the above link]

April 2022 Draft Post - UPDATED


FIRST - A word from our SPONSOR: Wharf Rats: Sober Deadheads

Back from the Dead? - Advice for those in RECOVERY...slow down and listen to the music play...

Local Folks: Join me every Thursday @ 11 AM at Witches Brew Coffee House in West Hempstead, NY (311 Hempstead Turnpike - across from the Fire House) for a closed AA meeting. Practicing the spirit of SERVICE, the coffee shop opens an hour early to serve those trying to "Dew" life one a time. A lot of veterans...a lot of wisdom...emanating from "practicing these principles in all our affairs".

[About] This is a group of Music, Magic, Recovery, Service and Love. I want this to be a pure Wharf Rat page where we carry the message and not the mess.

There is no ruling body of the Wharf Rats, no single person in charge, no governing board, no membership lists and no official organization. Just a group of individuals helping each other.

For more information on the Wharf Rats go to WharfRat.Info.

Feel free to invite your friends. There are some amazing people here.

The shape of the story told by the song is recursive—a sort of passing-of-the-torch for the down-and-out. The narrator whose voice frames the story is well on his way, from the sound of it, to being out there on the street, looking for spare change. In fact, he already doesn’t even have a dime; all he has is some time to listen. (Brings to mind the old saying, “I’m so poor, I can’t even pay attention!”)

Hunter and Garcia both had a certain amount of experience to draw on in writing and singing about being homeless, on at least semi-indigent, living in cars in their early years of first acquaintance, crashing where they could. The fact that Hunter has Garcia sing a song, one of whose characters is named August, seems possibly significant in light of Garcia’s birthday: he would have been 71 years old this week—born on August 1, 1942. There are other examples of songs in which Garcia sings lyrics, crafted by Hunter, which seem like personal cautionary tales: “Althea,” for example. So is this August West a character Garcia might have become had he not made other decisions?

“Wharf Rat” was first performed by the Dead on February 18, 1971, at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, NY. This is another of those shows that included a number of firsts: “Bertha,” “Greatest Story Ever Told,” “Loser,” and “Playing In the Band.” This is the beginning of the songwriting period in which Hunter and Garcia collaborated on a series of great story songs set in an America peopled by outlaws, the down-and-out, and a range of more or less disreputable characters.

The song always seemed to me to be partially aimed at the Deadheads. As a group, we were perhaps more in danger of falling victim to our addictions than mainstream society. And the fact that our own 12-Step group, of which I am a proud participant, calls itself the Wharf Rats, speaks volumes.

tOM's add: attention...especially to those who may know you better than you currently know yourself...In my case, Eileen has and continues to perform this role...

Slooooooow down and watch what kinds of rabbit trails you follow...stay on the step at a time...Stick with the CHOCOLATE bunnies...Avoid certain WHITE RABBITS...AND, always remember to say GRACE before meals...SLICK, Huh?

Opening Set: Roll Away the Rocks...

Yesterday (Holy Saturday 2022), while spending quiet time keeping vigil in the tomb, I was musing about the Easter morning rock and imagining Augustine forming a band called The City of G-d and releasing a single called "We Built this City on Rocks that Roll." It's about the obstacles to love and our participation in their removal... some have said about the door to our opens from the inside...

Since there isn't yet such a song, imagine alternate lyrics as we take a ride in a Starship...from the Constellation Jefferson. I selected this particular video because it features sacred music venues from around our shared world.

A little later in this adventure we'll go INSIDE this music cathedral where we'll see the DEAD raise people to NEW LIFE...


Time to head back to the candy counter...

Release the children to Sunday School...Let the Child in you go FREEEEE...


Like music and also like to build stuff...???

Here's another...The Etsy seller forgot to update the text in the DropDown box...: )))

Maybe they also sell candy...

--even includes glow-in-the-dark pieces...FAR OUT!!!


--Meanwhile upstairs the grown ups are "dewing" their version...

--See "Furthur" down in this post for Playing for Change's Ripple.

Sermon: Throwing Stones

Coffee Break/Discussion...

[Selections follow]

Wouldn’t it be great if, someday, this song became irrelevant, an artifact of a barbaric time? But somehow, no. It hangs in there, and doesn’t recede into irrelevance.

Not to dwell on it too much, it seems worth noting that the 1982 Israeli conflict was just one of many at the time--the ongoing Iran-Iraq War, the Soviet war in Afghanistan, not to mention the Falklands War between Argentina and Great Britain. Additionally there was plenty going on in Central America, with revolutionary movements in El Salvador and Nicaragua facing opposition from US-funded military efforts.

After all, where does the song’s title come from? Given Barlow’s theological background, it’s likely taken from the biblical tale of Jesus, told in the Gospel of John, defending a prostitute who is about to be stoned to death, challenging the crowd: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” Or, maybe it derives from the folk idiom, “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.”

Either way, it’s an admonishment to look first at yourself before criticizing the world—to refrain from hypocrisy.

And where did that put all of us who sang the song, who relished the lines about politicians throwing stones, while we, we were on our own? Is there a little bit of irony waiting to be uncovered as we live with the song over the years? I don’t know. I like to think that one of Barlow’s tricks is to plant time bombs of exploding consciousness in his lyrics, but once again, just as with the phenomenon of hearing Hunter’s songs differently over the years, maybe it’s an internal thing, and not intentional. (Although I do think Hunter engaged in a conscious practice of writing songs that would resonate differently at different stages in our lives—part of the magic of his songwriting craft. I wouldn’t put it past Barlow, either.)

Sermons in Stone...

Second Set: Roll Away the Dew...

Honoring my friend Steve’s

“There’s a Grateful Dead song for every occasion”

…Here’s one that features “roll away the dew” - “dew” being seen as a metaphor for obstacles…being asleep…resisting the call...basically anything that hinders our active participation in love.

Our intentions matter...they activate transformational energies that help us awaken...

Principal Celebrants:

  • Jerry Garcia - guitar, vocals

  • Bob Weir - guitar, vocals

  • Phil Lesh - bass

  • Brent Myland - keyboards, vocals

  • Bill Kreutzmann - drums

  • Mickey Hart - drums, percussion

Also from Franklin's Tower...

...and dance like no one's watching...

Sorry, the uploader of the following video has succumbed to the lure of merchandising, SO...the following and his other "Grate" mash up offerings are now pay-per-view...

--Premise: [Video maker] asked a bunch of folks at the recent Change Rocks show at Penn State what some well-known Hunter lyrics meant to them.

To all my friends...

Dismissal...Go be Ripples of Gratitude & GRATEness...

Slooooooow downnnnnnn...this might be an extendddddddded exit...OR, existentially...for those who follow Jean Paul Sartres...

For starters, did you hear the one about the baseball game between the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane???

"STICK" around...see next link...

--Story of the song "Ripple" by the Grateful Dead includes interviews with Phil Lesh, Jerry Garcia, David Grisman and more...!

[NOTE: I included his whole post]

After all these years of thinking about the song, even now, when I put my mind to it, new things surface. I realized, just now, that despite the song’s American folk song quality, I think of it as something from the Far East. Something inherently Asian, and I think that’s because of a couple of things. Early on, I read somewhere a description of “Ripple” as having a gentle, Taoist bent. And then there’s the fact that the chorus is a haiku. Vaguely Buddhist /Asian imagery is conjured by Hunter in a number of his early songs, especially. Think of “China Cat Sunflower,” with its copperdome bodhi. That simple reference to Taoism long ago sent me looking for information about the Tao, and it has proven to be a very rich vein indeed. Same with haiku—I have written dozens of haiku over the years, and without “Ripple,” my experience with the form might have remained at the third-grade level.

But the poetic allusions in the song are not entirely from the East. Perhaps the primary source for the song comes from the 23rd Psalm, with its reference to “still water,” and to a cup that may be full or empty. The deceptively simple language of the song leads us to contemplate sources beyond our immediate knowing—whether human or “not made by the hands of men”—as well as the interplay of life and death. This song has comforted me through the death of both my parents, with its lines about the road between dawn and dark being no simple highway. Each of us has our individual path, for our steps alone. That might seem like a frightening thought, but I find the universality of it a comfort: we’re all in the same boat.

There are lessons about leadership in this song that I wish everyone who aspires to that role would take to heart: “You who choose to lead must follow, and if you fall, you fall alone.”

I had the honor and pleasure of being in the backing chorus for the First Fusion concerts Bob Weir collaborated on with the Marin Symphony Orchestra a couple of years ago, and got to sing “Ripple” with him in a small group as part of the encore set, followed by “Attics of My Life.” I love to play the melody and changes on the piano, and on banjo. It’s part of my small repertoire of songs I think I could play in my sleep.

What place has “Ripple” had in your life? Has it helped you through anything? Have you sung it to your children as a lullaby? Have you played it around a campfire? These are just a few ways the song has lived in my life.

There are mysteries in the song. I’ve had emails from many people over the years, proposing ideas about the ripple of the title—where does it come from? How can a song be played on a harp without strings? (And I don’t think it was actually a harmonica…) What is the fountain? Who made it? (A girlfriend once joked with me that clearly, since it wasn’t made by the hands of men, it must have been made by women.)

Your thoughts? Feel free to offer some interpretative speculation! It doesn’t matter if your thoughts are broken—let there be stories to fill the air!

--Worldwide Ripples...featuring Jerry's youngest daughter - Keelin Garcia -an artist; drummer Bill Kreutzmann; Jimmy Buffett at Montauk Point, NY; David Crosby; the Chicago Children's Choir and a host of musicians from around our shared world...

"May the four winds blow us safely home..."



bottom of page