A Little Peace To Die

Music doesn’t get any darker than it did on the 1970 Grateful Dead song ‘Black Peter’, as this is a somber tale about death with a laid-back blues-based mournful tempo.  This song was released on Workingman’s Dead, which was their fourth studio album.  This album was ranked number 262 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time and this album went platinum in 1986.  Their first three albums that they made ‘The Grateful Dead’ (1967), ‘Anthem Of The Sun’ (1968) and ‘Aoxomoxoa’ (1969) were viewed as being more of a necessary inconvenience for the Dead, as they liked playing live shows and not having to be in the studio.

I love Black Peter and I hope that this song gets played at my funeral.  In June 1969, Robert Hunter the lyricist for the Grateful Dead had an intense acid trip that lead him to write ‘Black Peter’.  Hunter began thinking about every assassination he knew of, the deaths of JFK and Lincoln, among many other deaths.  Hunter realized that the promise of death was waiting for him, just as it was for every man and it was as inevitable as sunrises and sunsets.  The Grim Reaper would be eventually coming for everyone.

Peter is in bad shape when his friends drop in on him.  The bedridden Peter accepts that he is dying, and he finds solace knowing that his friends came by to see him.  Peter seems to have a friend named “Annie Beauneu from Saint Angel”, who talks about the weather.  The wind blows in and Peter wonders “who can the weather command?”, which seems like an odd question to ponder.  There is an Aesop Fable ‘The Wind and The Sun’, where they argue to settle a controversy about which one is stronger and they decide to test their authority out on a travelers coat.  The weather tries to command this traveler with the wind blowing harder and harder, however the man just keeps holding on to his coat tighter and tighter.  The wind gives up and then the Sun shines, making it warm enough to authorize the man to remove his coat.

Peter knows that he is dying and he would like to have some peace and he also wants to be able to see some of his friends one more time.  His fever goes up to 105 and adults with a fever higher than 105 degrees F should seek medical attention, but his fever drops back down to normal and Peter will survive another day.  We get no clue what made Peter so sick that he is dying, but I guess it is possible that he has malaria.  Peter figures that tomorrow might be his last day, but he sees today as an important part of his life.  He starts reflecting about the things that he has done, he feels that everything that’s ever happened has lead him right here, and he begins to recognize the significance of his life’s achievements and he feels that there will never be another moment more important to him than right now.  He also knows that while this may be the most important day of his life, it’s just another day to everyone else.

Simple things start to torment him, the Sun going up and then going down and his friends coming around, as they may know him, but maybe they don’t really care about him.  He sees himself as being a poor man who is probably down and out on his luck.  He wonders if his friends just dropped by because they felt like that is what they were supposed to do while he is “laying in pain”.  Did his friends just run to see him suffering in his misery?

It is not known why Annie Beauneu from Saint Angle is mentioned in this song, but my saucy suspicions tell me that at one time she was his lover.  There is a Saint Angle France that is about 240 miles away from Beaune France.  Saint Angle is known for its Triple Crème cheese that is said to melt on the tongue and Beaune France is known as the capital of Burgundy wine. Beauneu could be a misspelling of Beaune and there is a hospital there that dates back to the Middle Ages.  The Hospices de Beaune is one of France’s most prestigious historic monuments.  Its flamboyant Gothic architecture, its polychrome roofs and a renowned vineyard make this museum one of Burgundy’s gems.  The two wings of this ancient hospital have been built around a central courtyard with deep roofs covered in glazed multi-colored tiles arranged in geometric patterns.  Inset in the roofs are gable windows with carvings and decoration which are an art form in themselves.  The large hospital room is surrounded by ancient beds which look as hard as rocks.  In the old days 2-3 people would occupy the same bed.  It was believed that getting ill was a punishment from God, doctors had no idea that disease could be spread by contact, so it was pretty much down to luck, as to who you got stuck with as a bed mate, as what was wrong with them could soon become your problem also.

All of my friends come to see me last night
I was laying in my bed and dying
Annie Beauneu from Saint Angel
Say “the weather down here so fine”

Just then the wind
Came squalling through the door
But who can
The weather command?
Just want to have
A little peace to die
And a friend or two
I love at hand

Fever roll up to a hundred and five
Roll on up
Gonna roll back down
One more day
I find myself alive
Maybe go
Beneath the ground

See here how everything
Lead up to this day
And it’s just like
Any other day
That’s ever been
Sun goin up
And then the
Sun it goin down
Shine through my window and
My friends they come around
Come around
Come around

The people may know but
People don’t care
That a man could be
As poor as me
Take a look at poor Peter
He’s lying in pain
Now let’s go run
And see

Run and see
Run and see
Run, run, and see
Hey, hey, run and see

Written for Daily Addictions prompt – Controversy, for FOWC with Fandango – Question, for September Writing Prompts – Saucy suspicions, for Sheryl’s A New Daily Post Word Prompt – Authorize, for Scotts Daily Prompt – First and for Word of the Day Challenge Prompt – Torment.

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