I Give You My Eyes

The lyrics for ‘Black Throated Wind’ were written by John Barlow and the music was written by Bob Weir, and this song first appeared on Bob’s 1972 solo album Ace.  This album came out the same year as Jerry Garcia’s Garcia and Mickey Hart’s Rolling Thunder, however the backing band here is the Dead minus Ron “Pigpen” McKernan plus a few guests, and Keith Godchaux is playing piano.  Mickey Hart the percussionist left the group in February of 1971 after it was discovered his father, who was the band’s manager, had been embezzling large sums money from the group although he did return to the band in October of 1974.  Pianist and harmonica player Ron “Pigpen” McKernan contracted a rare autoimmune disease which in conjunction with his alcoholism eventually took his life.  With Pigpen’s illness, the group added two new members the husband and wife duo, Keith and Donna Jean Godchaux.

The horns on this song are attributed to Snooky Flowers a saxophonist who most notably organized the Kozmic Blues Band for Janis Joplin, Luis Gasca a trumpet player that worked with Carlos Santana, Janis Joplin and played on Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey album and The Space Rangers who there doesn’t appear to be any information on, although I went through a prolonged search.  Bob Weir and John Perry Barlow’s writing partnership allegedly began due to a fight between Weir and The Grateful Dead’s primary lyricist, Robert Hunter.  Hunter apparently didn’t like when Weir would improvise lyrics on stage, preferring that him and Jerry stick to the lyrics that he wrote.

‘Black Throated Wind’ is a song about breaking off a relationship and hitting the road.  The hitcher is unsuccessfully trying to hitch a ride home cross country, but since no one is picking him up, he has plenty of time to think about his life.  He starts reminiscing about a failed relationship while cars, buses, and semis are all passing him by.  He is out on the edge of an empty highway running away from a relationship where he feels his girl ended up getting the better deal, because he treated her better than she treated him.  He left St. Louis to get away from her after he tried to pretend that it was her fault their relationship ended, because she had changed, but it still came to an end.  She was not the woman he thought she was initially, although he doesn’t deny there were times when he didn’t have any doubts or regrets about her.

The black-throated wind makes him realize that he was the one who has changed and he sees that he ain’t gonna learn what he doesn’t want to know.  The hitchhiker is speaking to himself, about himself saying, “So I give you my eyes, and all of their lies.  Please help them to learn as well as to see.  Capture a glance and make it a dance.  Of looking at you looking at me.”  He wants to give her his eyes so that she can help him to see what he was like.  The song ends with him going back to her because he realizes that she was good to him.  Barlow named his memoir “Mother American Night” after a line in this song.

Bringing me down
I’m running aground
Blind in the light of the interstate cars
Passing me by
The buses and semis
Plunging like stones from a slingshot on Mars
But I’m here by the road
Bound to the load
That I picked up in ten thousand cafes and bars
Alone with the rush of the drivers who won’t pick me up
The highway, the moon, the clouds, and the stars
The black-throated wind keeps on pouring in
With its words of a life where nothing is new
Ah, Mother American Night, I’m lost from the light
Oh, I’m drowning in you
I left St. Louis, the City of Blues
In the midst of a storm I’d rather forget
I tried to pretend it came to an end
‘Cause you weren’t the woman I thought I once met
But I can’t deny that times have gone by
When I never had doubts or thoughts of regret
And I was a man when all this began
Who wouldn’t think twice about being there yet
The black-throated wind keeps on pouring in
And it speaks of a life that passes like dew
It’s forced me to see that you’ve done better by me
Better by me than I’ve done by you
What’s to be found, racing around
You carry your pain wherever you go
Full of the blues and trying to lose
You ain’t gonna learn what you don’t want to know
So I give you my eyes, and all of their lies
Please help them to learn as well as to see
Capture a glance and make it a dance
Of looking at you looking at me
The black-throated wind keeps on pouring in
With its words of a lie that could almost be true
Ah, Mother American Night, here comes the light
I’m turning around, that’s what I’m gonna do
Goin’ back home that’s what I’m gonna do
Turnin’ around
That’s what I’m gonna do
‘Cause you’ve done better by me
Than I’ve done by you

Written for Song Lyric Sunday where the prompt is Give/Get/Take/Receive/Send.

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