"I have spent my life Seeking all that's still unsung"

The Annotated "Attics of My Life"

An installment in The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics.
By David Dodd
1997-98 Research Associate, Music Department, University of California, Santa Cruz
"Attics of My Life"
Words by Robert Hunter; music by Jerry Garcia
Copyright Ice Nine Publishing; used by permission.

In the attics of my life
Full of cloudy dreams unreal
Full of tastes no tongue can know
And lights no eye can see
When there was no ear to hear

You sang to me

I have spent my life
Seeking all that's still unsung
Bent my ear to hear the tune
And closed my eyes to see
When there were no strings to play
You played to me

In the book of love's own dream
Where all the print is blood
Where all the pages are my days
And all my lights grow old
When I had no wings to fly
You flew to me

to me

In the secret space of dreams
Where I dreaming lay amazed
When the secrets all are told
And the petals all unfold
When there was no dream of mine
You dreamed of me

"Attics of My Life"

Recorded on

First performance:

This note from a reader:

Subject: Attics of my Life
Date: Thu, 26 Dec 1996 22:32:33 -0500
From: LBartram1@aol.com

Dear David:

First, thanks so much for all of your hard work. Your annotated lyrics are a real pleasure to read.

A correction: The first performance of the aforementioned tune was at Meramec Community College, in Kirkwood MO, in 1970. Sorry I can't help with the date. [It was May 14, 1970--dd.] I was in the eighth grade, it was my first dead concert, and boy do I remember, the strain of their refrain...

In the book of love's own dream...

The New Riders opened the show (Mickey Hart on Drums, Lesh on bass, Garcia on pedal steel), followed by the Dead acoustic, then, the Dead electric. Pigpen gave a ponderous performance of Lovelight. I was astonished....

Gratefully yours,

Larry Bartram

Attics of My Life" was never a frequent song in live shows, but was revived in later years in a splendid, soaring arrangement.

The WELL's Deadlit topic #188 is about "Attics of My Life."

tastes, lights, hear

Hunter uses the senses repeatedly in this lyric, evoking how it is we know "reality," and then counterposing the sensual world to the spiritual realm: the attics--"upstairs"--which contain the inner world of dreams. Hunter seems to be addressing the source of his inspiration, and in this the lyric has similarities to "Ripple" and to "Terrapin".

And closed my eyes to see

This note from a reader:
Date: Thu, 09 Aug 2001 02:01:38
From: "rick waters"


I recently found this prayer and was struck by a line that is very similiar to one in 'Attics of my Life'. Is it just coincidental? or do you think there is a possibility that Robert Hunter may have been influenced by this prayer?

The line is: "you fill to the full with most beautiful splendor those souls who close their eyes that they may see"

it came from this site:
Bye now

Thanks, Rick. The prayer is St. Denis's Prayer, a 14th-century poem from St. Denis's The Cloud of Unknowing.

You flew to me

A reader forwarded this exchange, posted on rec.music.gdead:
Subject: Attics of my Life
Date: Sun, 3 Nov 1996 11:04:50 -0800 (PST)
From: Lion Kimbro

Hello, my name is Lion and I saw your interpretation of the "You flew to me" in your pages. The following is a post I saw in rec.music.gdead regarding the Attics of My Life. I thought you might be interested. It has a message from rh at the end.

Date: Thu, 10 Oct 1996 23:44:05 -0700
From: Deb Nison
Newsgroups: rec.music.gdead
Subject: R. Hunter on "Attics..."

This post is mainly in response to those who helped me out on the interpretation of "Attics of my Life" for my English paper. The paper is going great thanks to a lot of you. One of you kind folks gave me Hunter's e-mail address, and would you believe he responded to me in about 4 hours!?! A lot of you mailed me asking me what he said, so here is the letter. I debated on posting it for a while, but I think they are words to be read. Enjoy!

I guess I have to give the stock answer: if I could say it in prose I wouldn't need to write the song. Poetry is evocative - it's meant to communicate to deeper levels and approach the levels of non-verbal experience.

I guess the best I could say is that "you flew to me" is an affirmation of the concept of grace -

No, this is not a song about being stoned. It's a song about the soul.


You dreamed of me

This note from a reader:
Date: Wed, 12 Jun 1996 16:23:59 -0400
From: JTBentch@aol.com
Subject: "You dreamed of me"

I was looking over the lyrics to "Attics of My Life" and noticed the last line of the song, "When there was no dream of mine, you dreamed of me." And I thought that it could be a referance to the character of the Red King in Lewis Carrol's "Alice Through the Looking-Glass." In the book Alice, along with Tweedledee and Tweedledum, comes upon the sleeping Red King in the forest. They discuss what he may be dreaming about and Tweedledee says he's dreaming about Alice.

"'Why, [he's dreaming] about you!' Tweedledee exclaimed, clapping his hands triumphantly. 'And if he left off dreaming about you, where do you suppose you'd be?... You'd be nowhere. Why, you're only a sort of thing in his dream!'
'If that there king was to wake,' added Tweedledum, 'you'd go out - bang! - just like a candle!"
It's just a thought.
Sincerely yours,
Jeff Bentch

Thanks for that pointer!

keywords: @God
DeadBase code: [ATTI]
First posted: August 28, 1995
Last revised: August 9, 2001