"And the river keep a talkin' But you never hear a word it say"

The Annotated "Easy Wind"

An installment in The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics.
By David Dodd
Research Associate, Music Dept., University of California, Santa Cruz
"Easy Wind"
Words and music by Robert Hunter
Copyright Ice Nine Publishing; used by permission

I been ballin' a shiny black steel jack-hammer
Been chippin' up rocks for the great highway
Live five years if I take my time
Ballin' that jack and a drinkin' my wine.

I been chippin' them rocks from dawn till doom
While my rider hide my bottle in the other room
Doctor say I better stop ballin' that jack
If I live five years gonna bust my back, yes I will

Easy wind cross the bayou today
There's a whole lotta women, mama,
Out in red on the streets today.
And the river keep a talkin'
But you never hear a word it say

Gotta find a woman be good to me
Won't hide my liquor try to serve me tea
'Cause I'm a stone jack baller and my heart is true
And I'll give everything that I got to you, yes I will

Easy wind blowing cross the bayou today
There's a whole lotta women, mama,
Out in red on the streets today
And the river keep a talkin'
But you never hear a word it say

"Easy Wind"

Recorded on

First known performance: September 1, 1969, at the Baton Rouge International Speedway in Prairieville, Louisiana. It was played steadily through April of 1971.

great highway

Reminiscent of the rock and roll venue, The Family Dog at the Great Highway, in San Francisco, a frequent venue for the Grateful Dead in 1969 and 1970. It was named for Highway 1, which runs through San Francisco.

However, this "Great Highway" seems unlikely to be the one referred to by the protagonist of this song, as other geographical clues ("across the Bayou") seem to indicated a Louisiana setting.

Ballin' that jack

This note from a reader:
-----Original Message----- From: Ken Johnson [mailto:ken.johnson@Seattle.Gov]
Sent: Thursday, September 11, 2003 1:44 PM
Subject: Easy Wind and the dance hall?

Since I got the itch to look through revisions of your Annotations in a slow day, on jury duty, waiting for a pager to go off...
I was surprised to not see a link to the phrase "Balling the Jack," on your "Easy Wind" annotation. Aside from the delightful double entendres inherent in a Pigpen vocalization of those words and their relation to other forms of drilling, this is an old Dixieland song, though other roots sprout when one Google-izes...
Check out: http://www.rienzihills.com/SING/ballinthejack.htm
for some words to a fox trot that is the predecessor of the jazz version of this song. And on that page is a wonderfully Peter Max-ian treatment of black-and-red diamonds on the sheet music.
The link that follows here traces the dance and song's history and performances. http://www.streetswing.com/histmain/z3balin.htm
Also on that link is a tie to the trainman's use of the word "ballin'".
Just some 411 on the 9/11,

my rider

Date: Mon, 19 Jun 95 15:57:57 -2400
From: Kelley Kahn

How wonderful that there is a page like this to answer the questions that plague us, like this one: in the song "I Know You Rider," who or what is rider? Someone who herself is on a "Northbound Train" maybe?

Thanks - keep up the good work!

I replied to Kelley that this seems like a standard phrase meaning "main squeeze", as Pigpen uses it in "Operator" [and "Easy Wind"]. She then replied:

> Thanks, David.  I had forgotten about the rider reference in Operator.  The

> main squeeze definition makes perfect sense.  But how did it come to mean

> that?  I'm going to start referring to my old boyfriend as my Ex-Rider.


> Appreciate your work -


> Kelley

I answered as follows:

Well, I broke down and went and looked up the word in some dictionaries of slang. Only found it in one: Eric Partridge's Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. He says:

"An--esp. customary--actively amorous man: low coll. Ex *ride* --compare Riding St. George."

Yes, it's low colloquial--ie down and dirty. Under his entry for "ride", Partridge says:

"To mount a woman in copulation." And under "Riding St. George": (The position of) the woman being on top in the sexual act."

So. There you have it. Thanks for sending me on this most interesting errand.

Another comment:

Date: Tue, 23 Jan 1996 11:03:29 GMT-5
From: PUBBLAN@amber.indstate.edu
Subject: riders

david --

re: Easy Wind

don't forget Gregg Allman's "Midnight Rider" and the classic "C.C. Rider" and "Jenny Take a Ride."


in red on the streets today

Another reference to women wearing red is to be found in "Casey Jones."
Keywords: @bayou, @red, @alcohol
DeadBase code: [EZWI]
First posted: January 20, 1996
Last revised: September 15, 2003