"You can take a lot of reckoning but you can't take it all"

The Annotated "Built to Last"

An installment in The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics.
By David Dodd

Copyright notice; © 1995, David Dodd
"Built to Last"
Words by Robert Hunter; music by Jerry Garcia
Copyright Ice Nine Publishing; used by permission.

There are times that you can beckon
There are times when you must call
You can shake a ton of reckoning
But you can't shake it all
There are times when I can help you out
And times that you must fall
There are times when you must live in doubt
And I can't help at all

Three blue stars / Rise on the hill
Say no more, now / Just be still
All these trials / Soon be past
Look for something / Built to last

Wind held by the collar
Got a cloud held by the breeze
You can walk on coals of fire
But sometimes you must freeze
There are times when you offend me
And I do the same to you
If we can't or won't forget it,
then I guess we could be through

One blue star / Sets on the hill
Call it back / You never will
One more star / Sinks in the past
Show me something / Built to last.

Built to last till time itself
Falls tumbling from the wall
Built to last till sunshine fails
And darkness moves on all
Built to last while years roll past
Like cloudscapes in the sky
Show me something built to last
Or something built to try

There are times when you get hit upon
Try hard but you cannot give
Other times you'd gladly part
With what you need to live
Don't waste the breath to save your face
When you have done your best
And even more is asked of you
Let fate decide the rest.

All the stars / Are gone but one
Morning breaks / Here comes the sun
Cross the sky now / Sinking fast
Show me something / Built to last

"Built to Last"

Recorded on

First performance: October 20, 1988, at The Summit, Houston, Texas. "Built to Last" appeared in the second set, following "Playing in the Band" and preceding drums. It was performed fairly infrequently through early 1990. It shares the distinction, along with "Blues for Allah," "Terrapin Station," and "Shakedown Street" of being a title track for an album.

three blue stars

Compare to "Stella Blue"--i.e. "blue stars" are "stellas blue."

This note from a reader:

From: Ian Szekeres [mailto:ian@urbancom.net]
Sent: Sunday, August 03, 2003 1:57 AM
Subject: built to last

No one has ever mentioned it, but I have always had the three stars in Orion's belt come to mind while hearing this song, it has always been a touchstone in the fall and spring for me to look up and see these three stars rise and fall, and seems to fit very well.

keywords: @star
DeadBase code: [BUIL]
First posted: November, 1995
Last revised: August 4, 2003