A Fan

The Grateful Dead were listed 57th in the Rolling Stone magazine issue ranking The Greatest Artists of all Time. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.  The lyrics to the song ‘Bertha’ were written by Robert Hunter and the music was written by Jerry Garcia.  Robert Hunter said that there is no truth to the rumor that Bertha was the name of a dangerous electrical fan in the office of their 710 Ashbury street home.  Supposedly this large floor fan was said to have a mind of its own and it would periodically glide across the floor when it was activated.  The front grill covering the blades was missing and when it vibrated across the floor towards you, you had to move, you really had to move, otherwise you might be injured, but you probably wouldn’t die.  Others say that Big Bertha was about an oscillating fan that they had to shut down after they laid out a couple of fat lines on the table and Bertha blew their coke on to the floor.

‘Bertha’ first came out on the 1971 live album, Grateful Dead more commonly known as ‘Skull & Roses’, and Hunter said that he actually doesn’t remember what this song was truly written about.  Hunter may not remember as he fully participated in the use of psychedelics, moved on to cocaine and smoking heroin, and he also drank a lot of alcohol.  He thought that it is probably some vaguer connotation of birth, death and reincarnation, the cycle of existences, some kind of such nonsense like that.  Hunter said, “I wouldn’t be surprised, but then again, it might not be.”  Hunter always did love spirituality and mythology, and Bertha is likely named after the Germanic goddess Bertha who rewarded of the generous, and punished the bad.  I really doubt that Robert Hunter would write a song about anything so superficial as an electric fan, because that was just not his style.  Jerry Garcia said this song is about a huge overpowered fan named Bertha that someone decided to renovate with an incredibly high speed motor adapted to drive it, but he did not write the lyrics.

The way I heard it was that Bertha was a female fan, not one that you plug into an outlet.  She was one of the first deadheads and she would end up sleeping in their living room and when the morning rolled around she didn’t want to leave.  The Dead were lamenting that they might have to move, since Bertha wouldn’t go home!  Bertha was said to be a big woman and most guys have had an evening where they consumed too much drink and they ended up the next morning in bed with some slightly overweight girl.  You see her laying next to you the next morning snoring away and the events of the last evening sort of come back to you, but you are still perplexed about why in the hell it is even possible that you woke up wearing this girls panties, a memory that you clearly would like to repress.  You go splash some water on your face, a lot of water and when you get back to your bed you shake the girl to try and wake her up.  When this girl makes no attempt to leave you start to go nuts, because you don’t want your friends that will soon be stopping by to find out how bad you were slumming last night.  You would rather be thrown into the jail house, so you don’t have to deal with her, or deal with your friends sneering remarks.  I also heard another story that says Bertha was very enthusiastic fan at the grateful Dead concerts and she would get right up front and interfere with the acoustics because of her large body.  This story says that the band loved her and they immortalized her in this song, even though they had to continually ask her to move to prevent her from messing up their sound.  Another story says that Bertha was the first deadhead to wear the skull symbol and she became the official mascot of The Grateful Dead.

Some of the lyrics in this song ‘Bertha’ are sort of humorous, such as, “Run around a corner, run smack in to a tree”, as this was written before Forrest Gump made jogging popular.  The line, “Dressed myself in green, I went down to the sea”, may relate to what Hunter said about this song invoking thoughts of birth, death and reincarnation, as green signifies growth, rebirth, and fertility and the sea is where all life first formed.  Other lyrics such as, “Ran into a rainstorm, ducked into a bar door” probably signifies that this guy really wanted to get away and maybe have a few drinks to settle down.  “It was all night pouring, pouring rain But not a drop on me”, most likely because he stayed at the bar all night.  This is all I got and I hope that you enjoyed my take on trying to see what’s going down, as it is not always easy to read between the lines.

‘Bertha’ was quite often an opening song at Grateful Dead concerts, as it got all of the fans up on their feet bopping around. Throughout their career, they played more than 2,300 concerts and Bertha was played 397 times at these concerts.  If you ignore drum solos and space jams, only 18 other songs were played more times live by the Grateful Dead.  These are ‘Playing in the Band’ performed 669 times, ‘Not Fade Away’ 644, ‘Me and My Uncle’ 624, ‘Sugar Magnolia’ 595, ‘I Know You Rider’ 562, ‘The Other One’ 562, ‘China Cat Sunflower’ 559, ‘Truckin’ 530, ‘Jack Straw’ 472, ‘Minglewood Blues’ 437, ‘Good Lovin’ 437, ‘Mexicali Blues’ 433, ‘Tennessee Jed’ 431, ‘The Promised Land’ 428, ‘Deal’ 422, ‘Around and Around’ 417, ‘Looks Like Rain’ 414 and ‘Wharf Rat’ 398.

I had a hard run
Running from your window
I was all night running, running, running
I wonder if you care?
I had a run-in
Run around and run down
Run around a corner
Run smack into a tree

I had to move
Really had to move
That’s why if you please
I am on my bended knees
Bertha don’t you come around here anymore

Dressed myself in green
I went down to the sea
Try to see what’s going down
Maybe read between the lines
Had a feeling I was falling, falling, falling

Turned around to see
Heard a voice calling, calling, calling
You was comin after me
Back to me

I had to move
Really had to move
That’s why if you please
I am on my bended knees
Bertha don’t you come around here anymore

Ran into a rainstorm
Ducked into a bar door
It was all night pouring, pouring rain
But not a drop on me

Test me, test me
Why don’t you arrest me?
Throw me in the jail house
Until the sun goes down
Till it go down

I had to move
Really had to move
That’s why if you please
I am on my bended knees
Bertha don’t you come around here anymore

Written for Daily Addictions prompt – Glide, for FOWC with Fandango – Repress, for Sheryl’s A New Daily Post Word Prompt – Renovate and for Scotts Daily Prompt – Die.

10 thoughts on “A Fan

    1. What is not to love? I really expected somebody to comment on the guy waking up wearing the girl’s panties, but this post went largely ignored and I guess that people bear animosity against the Grateful Dead. I had this friend named Gary RIP who was a wild and crazy guy and he used to tell this funny story about waking up wearing this girl’s panties. I can’t help not thinking about him when I hear Bertha as he died when he ran his truck into a tree.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sorry to hear about Gary Jim. He sounded like a blast to be with but Hey I’m one of your friends too… Also I’ve also started listening to them thanks to you.. By the way How’s your health?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It is different between us, as I don’t even know your name and I feel that we will never meet. When I woke up this morning, I was still alive and that is always a good start. How is your plan of not talking to anyone going?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It is different between us, as I don’t even know your name and I feel that we will never meet. When I woke up this morning, I was still alive and that is always a good start. How is your plan of not talking to anyone going?

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Out of the more than 2,300 concerts that the Grateful Dead played, none of them were ever the same and that is the main reason that I like them. You never knew what to expect when you went to a Dead concert and although they did do a lot of space jams and drum solos, which could get tiring and they also made mistakes possibly because they got too high, they always put on the best shows.

      Liked by 1 person

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