"We may never know so much again"

The Annotated "Mason's Children"

An installment in The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics.
By David Dodd
Research Assoc., Music Dept. University of California at Santa Cruz
Copyright notice; © 1995, David Dodd
"Mason's Children"
Words by Robert Hunter; music by Jerry Garcia
Copyright Ice Nine Publishing; used by permission.

Mason died on Monday
We bricked him in the wall
All his children grew and grew
They never grew so tall before
They may never grow so tall again

We dug him up on Tuesday
He'd hardly aged a day
Taught us all we ever knew
We never knew so much before
We may never know so much again

Mason was a mighty man
A mighty man was he
All he said: when I'm dead and gone
don't you weep for me

The wall collapsed on Wednesday
We chalked it up to fate
All his children ran and hid
We never hid so well before
Swore we'd never show our face again

Thursday came and Friday
with fires tall and bright
Mason's children cooked the stew
and cleaned up when the feast was through
Swore we'd never had such times before

Take me to the Reaper Man
to pay back what was loaned
If he's in some other land
write it off as stoned

Mason was a mighty man
A mighty man was he
All he said: when I'm dead and gone
don't you weep for me

"Mason's Children"

Recorded on


First known performance: December 19, 1969, at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. "Mason's Children" opened the show, and was followed by "China Cat Sunflower." There are fifteen known live performances, all in 1969-1970, after which it was dropped from the repertoire.

Hunter's note in the Box of Rain anthology says:

"An unrecorded GD song dealing obliquely with Altamont."

This note from a reader:

-----Original Message----- From: John Edward Philips [mailto:philips@cc.hirosaki-u.ac.jp]
Sent: Wednesday, October 30, 2002 3:06 AM
Subject: Mason's children

I've just found your annotated Dead lyrics page and love it. I'll try to link it at my next update. I don't have much to contribute, but thought you might like to know that "Mason's Apron" is an old traditional fiddle tune. "Mason's Children" has a title that almost immediately reminded me of it.
Thanks for a great site.
   "Homo sum, humani nihil alienum a me puto." -TERENTIUS AFER
	(There is no such thing as foreign studies.)


Possibly a reference to the order of Freemasons?

bricked him in the wall

Reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe's story, "A Cask of Amontillado."

Reaper Man

Hunter's anthology, A Box of Rain, has this as "reaper man."

But a reader writes:

Date: Tue, 16 Jan 1996 13:29:35 GMT-5
From: PUBBLAN@amber.indstate.edu


i think the line deals with the "reefer man" (check Cab Calloway on this) and not the "reaper man" at least that is how i heard it


And I say, hurray for variant hearings!

DeadBase code: [MASO]
First posted: January 11, 1996
Last revised: June 19, 2003