Grateful Dead Lyricist: “I Tour Because I Want To, Not Because I Have To…”

Here’s our original article about Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter’s medical bills and his motivations for touring.

Here’s his response.

You decide.

roberthunterresponse

19 Responses

  1. skeptical

    DMN taking things out of context and sensationalizing them? Noooooo……

    Reply
  2. TruthSeeker

    Wait!!!!!

    Does this mean that DMN was a) reporting old, outdated and no-longer relevant issues as “news,” and/or b) inappropriately mis-quoting (*cough*) sources, re-contextualizing circumstances and otherwise unjustifiably sensationalizing a topic?!?!?!?!?!

    That just CAN’T be the case!

    I don’t think we’ve ever seen that happen here, before…

    Reply
    • Paul Resnikoff
      Paul Resnikoff

      Go read the Rolling Stone article. I really don’t think there’s much debate about the motivations for Robert Hunter to go out touring. He needed the cash.

      Has that changed in 10 mos.? Maybe. But probably not. My experience with financial holes is that they take a long time to repair, barring some sudden event (like, scoring an amazing job, selling a company, getting an inheritance, etc.).

      So you can call that sensationalist if you want. But the real issue is that artists like Hunter no longer have retirement plans from their music, even if they were writing songs for the Grateful Dead. And that’s a story that’s being replicated across a large number of once-super-successful, legacy artists.

      Actually, in the Rolling Stone article itself, Hunter points to this among his peers. But then, you’d have to read the article to know that.

      Reply
      • TruthSeeker

        So, let me get this straight:

        a) You write an article about your own conclusions drawn from less-than-conclusive statements made in an interview – which interview is 10 months old – saying that an artist supposedly HAS to tour, to pay his medical bills.

        b) That very artist sees your article, and the very same day immediately, explicitly and unequivocally refutes the substance and conclusions of your article – noting it’s untimeliness,

        and following that…

        c) You defend your initial, untimely article’s always-questionable conclusions, by suggesting that the very artist is somehow lying, in his own immediate, explicit and clear refutation of your article and it’s conclusion?

        Okaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyy….

        You’re suggesting that we ought to take your vague, agenda-driven, outdated, second-hand conclusions OVER the direct, simple and explicit statement of the person who is the subject of the entire issue…

        Really?!?

        Why can’t you just admit that you got it wrong?

        Reply
        • Paul Resnikoff
          Paul Resnikoff

          a) You write an article about your own conclusions drawn from less-than-conclusive statements made in an interview – which interview is 10 months old – saying that an artist supposedly HAS to tour, to pay his medical bills.

          Read the Rolling Stone article. They aren’t vague, less-than-conclusive statements. In fact, it seems that the conclusion is pretty obvious.

          As for the date, I’m not sure why that matters. 10 years would be outdated; 10 mos. is still pertinent.

          b) That very artist sees your article, and the very same day immediately, explicitly and unequivocally refutes the substance and conclusions of your article – noting it’s untimeliness,

          You would do this, too. Because now everyone thinks (correctly) that he’s touring mostly for the money, which makes him look desperate. And, it makes him seem disingenuous. So he has to spin it the other way, as quickly as possible.

          Everyone has to make money, and musicians partly do what they do to make money. But without the medical situation, and if publishing revenues were still flowing, Hunter wouldn’t be touring. That’s pretty obvious to me, and I suspect, most others that read that article with a dispassionate perspective.

          I guess the initial Rolling Stone article got buried or something. I never saw it the first time around.

          c) You defend your initial, untimely article’s always-questionable conclusions, by suggesting that the very artist is somehow lying, in his own immediate, explicit and clear refutation of your article and it’s conclusion?

          I reject the suppositions of that statement.

          Why can’t you just admit that you got it wrong?

          I do admit that I’m wrong, when I think that I am wrong. I don’t believe I’m wrong here.

          The broader point may be difficult for you and others to stomach. But this is a very stark commentary on this shifts happening in the music industry. That’s why I wrote the piece. And I stand by that decision, and the presentation of the topic material.

          Thanks.

          Reply
          • GGG

            There’s just too many unknown factors to frame it like you did. (And I know you’ll say you didn’t frame it any way, but us regulars know better haha). I just don’t think you can automatically conflate lower income for a 50 year old act with terrible modern payment methods. Especially publishing, which still brings in money hand over fist for plenty of acts, old and new. What would be interesting, and could certainly make it a story, is ask him what he gets/got from radio royalties, and what he gets from streaming. Then we’ll see how the latter affects things.

            Because I think the real question here is what is the value of GD’s catalogue these days. I’m willing to bet their licensing for merchandising probably brings in heaps of money. But unless it’s got Hunter’s lyrics on it, he’s not getting a penny. I mean, on an avg day I walk around NYC I probably see at least 2 shirts, probably a sticker, some ice cream, etc. Without pulling it up on my iTunes, I could probably go weeks without hearing a GD song in public.

          • TruthSeeker

            Read the Rolling Stone article. They aren’t vague, less-than-conclusive statements. In fact, it seems that the conclusion is pretty obvious.

            I DID read the Rolling Stone Article. As other commenters to THAT article pointed out, he NEVER said he was “forced to tour, to pay medical bills” as your headline stated. In fact, he said, in response to the question “Do you have health care?” – “Oh, it’s there, and it wasn’t terrible without insurance.”

            Also, nowhere in the RS article does Mr. Hunter “point to the issue that artists like Hunter no longer have retirement plans from their music, even if they were writing songs for the Grateful Dead,… a story that’s being replicated across a large number of once-super-successful, legacy artists…among his peers.” as you suggested. Nothing like that, at all.

            As for the date, I’m not sure why that matters.

            Oh, you just don’t see why it matters? Let me try and help you with a possible reason why the date matters:

            Robert Hunter – “This old news [has been] taken out of context.” and “I am not in need of any financial help or indebted,…

            Perhaps the very person you are claiming it is still pertinent to, EXPLICITLY TELLING YOU that it is NO LONGER RELEVANT, might – just MIGHT – lead you to conclude that it is outdated and no longer relevant.

            Just a thought for the responsible journalist to ponder…

            You would do this, too. Because now everyone thinks (correctly) that he’s touring mostly for the money, which makes him look desperate. And, it makes him seem disingenuous. So he has to spin it the other way, as quickly as possible.

            1) He is not spinning it the other way “as quickly as possible,” eh?

            Again, you took almost a year to “report” on this. He has explicitly said, now, that “a few quotes were taken out of context from last year’s interview” and “This old news [has been] taken out of context.” That is hardly a “quick” denial of a current topic.

            2) Again, you are asserting that your completely unfounded assumptions – which have been unequivocally and immediately denied, by the very artist your article is about – should be taken OVER that personal, unequivocal denial, because YOU allege there might be some other (completely unsupported and entirely unprovable) “motive” for the denial, other than it is simply a direct denial?

            Really?

            Think about what would happen to the state of journalism if the editorial “acid test” of how we report events was “possible ulterior motives that the writer can think of.”

            Alleged rape victim claims that employer raped her. But you, in all your wisdom, recognize that she just might have a motive of simply shaking down her boss for a settlement or a raise so, you report that “Girl uses criminal threat in attempt to raise cash!”

            Hey, that would be justified, because hell, everybody knows that just admitting she needed the money would make her look desperate…

            Yeah, that’s the way we want a situation to be reported….

            “…without the medical situation, and if publishing revenues were still flowing, Hunter wouldn’t be touring. That’s pretty obvious to me,…”

            And again, the guy himself, repeatedly and directly saying: “The reason I have decided to come back to touring is to play the music I love and for the deep connection to my audiences.

            I am going onstage now because I WANT to.”

            Makes WHAT “pretty obvious” to you?!?!?!

            Moving on, the fact that you “suspect,” that “most others that read that article with a dispassionate perspective” would agree with you is laughable.

            You have proven – and somewhat incredulously, continue to prove – that it is YOU that completely lack a dispassionate perspective. Your own, internal desire to paint Mr. Hunter as a starving artist who must tour to pay his medical bills, no matter what, has driven you not only to write an article that he saw fit immediately and publicly refute, but beyond that, for you to then continue to go on questioning and attempting to undermine his refutation of your article and conclusions.

            That’s what we call a clear agenda. The opposite of dispassionate perspective.

            What would it take for you to finally let go of your perspective on this? Mr. Hunter’s own words clearly can’t do it.

            Do we need to put him under hypnosis? Administer sodium pentothal? When will you have a “dispassionate perspective” that allows you to actually take a person at their word?

            I do admit that I’m wrong, when I think that I am wrong. I don’t believe I’m wrong here.

            We know you don’t think you’re wrong (yet).

            The point is: You ARE wrong.

            All of the facts show you were wrong about it. Beyond that, the person you wrote the article about has said you are wrong about it.

            The only person who doesn’t KNOW you are wrong is YOU (and apparently some illiterate commenter, Glenn in Minneapolis).

            Finally, the broader point you tried to make is not difficult for me to stomach. Nor is it any sort of a “very stark commentary on this shifts happening in the music industry.” What “shift” happened in the music industry that prevented Mr. Hunter from saving a bunch of cash when the tap was running for him, during the Grateful Dead’s heyday? What is it about the fact that he earns less now on 25+ year old songs that were made popular a generation ago by a band that no longer exists constitutes evidence of a “shift” in the music industry?

            Do you think that as the income of Lorenz Hart declined in the 1950s and ’60s, that was the result of some sort of “shift in the music industry” or, can you recognize that’s just the natural result of certain music falling out of fashion, eventually?

            Keep defending your distorted perspective on this, even though the very subject of the article has publicly announced you got it wrong.

            Now THAT makes you look smart and insightful!

          • Paul Resnikoff
            Paul Resnikoff

            Rolling Stone Interviewer: You haven’t gone on tour in a decade. Why now?

            Answer by Robert Hunter: When I was in my sixties, it seemed like a good time to retire, and I didn’t have a financial reason.

            “But I’ve got medical bills to pay, so I’m a working man again [laughs].”

            ….

            [later in the interview]

            “But there’s a lot I have to pay. I better make more money than one’s able to make in publishing these days to take care of it. It got me thinking I’d better get on the road. So I booked a short tour to see if I could do it.

  3. Minneapolis Musician

    I really don’t think Paul got this wrong.

    I think Robert does not want the world to know that he (very reasonably) needs the money. And the joy of playing for an audience.

    — Glenn

    Reply
    • UJ

      Exactly. That Mr. Hunter didn’t bother publicly refuting the very quotes being attributed him (when that RS interview was first published), to me, speaks volumes.

      I believe him that he enjoys performing on the road again feels a real “connection” to his audiences. Music is his life’s blood, so I don’t doubt for a second how quickly this return has inspired and renewed his passion. But I also believe his then financial state played a significant role in the decision to return to live concerts, when he did. It sounds more to me that he wishes to qualify statements he made. Unless, of course, he’s accusing Rolling Stone of misquoting or falsifying his remarks to them last September.

      Reply
  4. John R.

    Or we all could have just read this, published on the day before the original article here, and taken the man at his word: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/07/21/rain-man

    “When I got out of the hospital, it was one of those classic things—you’re looking death in the eye, and it changes you. I thought, I ought to go back on the road.” […] “It’s natural for me,” he said. “I’m going to keep it up for as long as my health allows it.”

    Yes, I know, that’s exactly the kind of thing a desperate musician would say to save face…

    Reply
  5. Richard Heather

    Aint often right but I’ve never been wrong. Keep on truckin, man. We love you.

    Reply
  6. James Tanis

    My question: why is any of this relevant? There seems to be an underlying assumption here that, *if* an artist “has to tour” to pay some bills, that there is some kind of shame in that. I can’t understand this. Why should I — or any one else — care about an artist’s personal reasons for making his or her art? Shouldn’t we all just be pleased, grateful, and enriched by the fact that he or she is? This all seems rather absurd (to me). NB: I purposely kept this post hypothetical because I have no reason to doubt Hunter’s own statement and don’t wish to imply that I do.

    Reply
  7. FarePlay

    Who knows all the facts involved. As a respected artist with a cult following I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Hunter preferred to be seen as touring for the love of the music and not as someone who needed the money. My guess it is a bit of both.

    The overarching message is that musicians no longer get nearly the compensation from their recording catalogues since the introduction of the Internet. While online piracy is talked about less these days, it still is a major drain of revenue that contributes to the problem as well.

    Reply
  8. Michael McLaughlin

    I think many of the comments are focused more on defending Mr. Hunter’s reputation than on addressing the point that, I believe, was the main thrust of the article: even an artist of Mr. Hunter’s reputation, with his level of success, and with what most would perceive as his level of income from publishing and other sources, still chooses to go out on tour when he feels the need for an infusion of $$$. It is undisputed that Mr. Hunter made reference to financial concerns when he decided to begin touring again. That the financial concerns may not now be as strong a motivation, and that he continues to tour to again experience the joy of connecting more directly with his fans, is really irrelevant to the point that, I believe, Mr. Resnikoff was trying to make: that in today’s artist-unfriendly business model, you can’t rely on just your publishing income. The paradigm is shifting. Big music business is making less $$$ from traditional sources (i.e.: sales), and is experiencing increased income from “new” sources such as streaming. Due to streaming’s structure of payouts to artists at this point in time (and I don’t think there is much room for debate that most artist’s are NOT raking it in from streaming – yet), the publishing payouts from streaming are significantly less than they were from the more traditional sources – which, like it or not, appear to be going the way of the buffalo.

    That is what I perceived to be the point of Mr. Resnikoff’s article, and the lesson to be learned from Mr. Hunter’s situation.

    Reply
  9. danwroter

    This would have been better handled as an opinion piece (which so much of the content here is anyway [which is fine as long as it’s labeled as such]) on the healthcare/health insurance issues musicians face, and then used the dated RS interview as supporting documentation. Again, the pressures of putting out a daily contribute to their own desperate measures. Twice a week would be plenty an you can spend more time reporting and writing.

    Reply
  10. Kyle Williams

    Yeah, he definitely is touring partly in reason because he wants to earn some additional income at this point in time. Probably to recoup medical costs because he doesn’t forsee recouping those from other music income sources.

    Paul made the point clear as day.

    Reply
  11. Jack Straw from MA

    Today I had a conversation with a man in a How To Interview workshop I was facilitating. He mentioned the Dead, stated that he never paid attention to them until a couple of years ago, and then added they are excellent. I smiled and agreed. After a pause, he commented as much as he likes the Dead, when he separates the music from the lyrics what he finds is poetry and tales of crazy fingers messing with his mind. Just let Robert Hunter be. As Hunter once said, “become yourself before someone else does.”

    Reply

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