"Of all possible worlds, we only got one..." roses logo for AGDL

The Annotated "We Can Run, But We Can't Hide"

An installment in The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics.
By David Dodd
Kraemer Family Library
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
(The opinions expressed are those of the author, not of the University of Colorado.)Copyright notice; © 1997 David Dodd
"We Can Run But We Can't Hide"
Words by John Perry Barlow; music by Brent Mydland
Copyright Ice Nine Publishing; used by permission

We don't own this place, though we act as if we did,
It's a loan from the children of our children's kids.
The actual owners haven't even been born yet.

But we never tend the garden and rarely we pay the rent,
Some of it is broken and the rest of it is bent
Put it all on plastic and I wonder where we'll be when the bills hit.

We can run,
But we can't hide from it.

Of all possible worlds,
We only got one:
We gotta to ride on it.
Whatever we've done,
We'll never get far from what we leave behind,
Baby, we can run, run, run, but we can't hide.
Oh no, we can't hide.

I'm dumpin' my trash in your back yard
Makin' certain you don't notice really isn't so hard
You're so busy with your guns and all of your excuses to use them.

Well, it's oil for the rich and babies for the poor,
We got everyone believin' that more is more,
If a reckoning comes, maybe we will know what to do then.

All these complications seem to leave no choice,
I heard the tongues of billions speak with just one voice,
Saying, "Just leave all the rest to me,
I need it worse than you, you see."
And then I heard...
The sound of one child crying.

Today I went walking in the amber wind,
There's a hole in the sky where the light pours in
I remembered the days when I wasn't afraid of the sunshine.

But now it beats down on the asphalt land
Like a hammering blow from God's left hand
What little still grows cringes in the shade like a bad vine.

"We Can Run, But We Can't Hide"

Martinez, California, February 3, 1989

Musical details:

Recorded on

First performance: February 5, 1989, at the Henry Kaiser auditorium, Oakland, Calif. "We Can Run" appeared in the first set, following "Althea" and preceding "Desolation Row." Also appearing for the first time in the show was "Standing On the Moon". I was there!

We can run, but we can't hide from it

A turn of phrase coined by boxer Joe Louis (Joseph Louis Borrow, 1914-1981), who said, prior to a heavyweight title bout with Billy Conn in June, 1946: "He can run, but he can't hide." (Sources: Barlett's Familiar Quotations, Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations)

The turn of phrase implemented here by Barlow also recalls Pogo's maxim: "We have met the enemy and he is us!" (See http://www.nauticom.net/www/chuckm/whmte.htm for more about this quote, and a reproduction of the original Earth Day, 1971 cartoon.)

Of all possible worlds

Compare the often-quoted line from Voltaire's Candide (1759):
"In this best of all possible worlds...everything is for the best." (Chapter 1.)
and its more modern corollary, by James Branchy Cabell, in his The Silver Stallion (1926):
"The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true."

oil for the rich and babies for the poor

Compare the folk saying: "The rich get richer and the poor get babies."

hole in the sky

A reference to the hole in the ozone layer. See The O3 Zone web site for more information.

bad vine

This sounded like a Biblical reference, of which Barlow is very fond, and indeed there are many such references in the Bible, though not specifically to a "bad" vine; rather, there are numerous analogies using vines which bear no fruit, or bitter fruit, as in
Keywords: @environment
DeadBase code: [WECA]
First posted: May 2, 1997