Silver and Gold Makes Him Lifeless and Cold

Money is supposed to make you happy, but there is a contrast involved when you are accumulating wealth, as it often brings misery instead of happiness.  Sometimes having more money will just make you more miserable.  Grateful Dead members Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, and Brent Mydland sang the backup vocals on this Bob Dylan song ‘Silvio’ which was recorded on his 1988 Down In The Grove album.  In 1986, Robert Hunter was writing in a notebook at the Grateful Dead’s studio when Bob Dylan picked it up and looked at Robert Hunter’s lyrics that the Dead were trying to put music to.  Dylan set the music to ‘Silvio’ and ‘Ugliest Girl in the World’ and included both songs on his album, to Hunter’s surprise and delight.  Dylan and Hunter were sitting on the couch in their studio at Front Street, rehearsing for one of the Dylan and the Dead tours, when Bob took one of these sheets of paper, folded it up and put it in his back pocket.  Hunter didn’t say anything and he certainly wasn’t going to tell Dylan to put it back, because he was Bob Dylan.  Hunter said when you are Bob Dylan, you can pick whatever you want.

Hunter’s work didn’t end with Garcia’s death.  In the years after, he wrote songs with Elvis Costello, Bruce Hornsby, country singer Jim Lauderdale and Dead drummer Mickey Hart.  His best-known collaborator after Garcia, though, were with Bob Dylan.  Starting with ‘Silvio’, the two co-wrote many songs on Dylan’s 2009 LP Together Through Life.   ‘Silvio’ has Dylan contemplating his own past and future.  He’s gotten himself into a rough spot in life, but refuses to get down about it, and he doesn’t want to whine about his ordeal.  The song is summed up by the last two lines of the fifth verse, “Since every pleasure’s got an edge of pain Pay for your ticket and don’t complain”.  It is interesting that an early version of the Grateful Dead song ‘Black Muddy River’ contained the lyrics, “Silvio silver and gold” and this may have given birth to the Dylan/Hunter composition.

Bob was not at the peak of his career when this song came out, but he said that he was willing to “stake my future on a hell of a past”, because he had a hell of a run so far.  The older you get the more tomorrow looks like it is coming on fast.  Not wanting to complain about what he has and although he has seen better days, “but who has not.”  He tells Silvio that he has to go so he can “Find out something only dead men know”.  He says that he is honest and that he is not looking for a handout.  He may feel like age has got the best of him and that he is not much to look at, because he describes himself as “an old boll weevil looking for a home”.

He is able to make it rain just by snapping his fingers and then make the sky blue again.  He is able to relieve your pain, and “charm the whistle off an evening train”.  He will give what he has got and take what he can get trying to “even the score”.  He loves the audience, but when the show is over, he wants to leave and he realizes that he gives up something he plays.  He knows that his days are numbered, but he is still going to sing his song, loud and strong and “Let the echo decide if I was right or wrong”.

Stake my future on a hell of a past
Looks like tomorrow is a coming on fast
Ain’t complaining about what I got
Seen better times but who has not

Silvio silver and gold
Won’t buy back the beat of a heart grown cold
Silvio I gotta go
Find out something only dead men know

Honest as the next jade rolling that stone
When I come and knockin’ don’t throw me no bone
I’m an old boll weevil looking for a home
If you don’t like it you can leave me alone

I can snap my fingers and require the rain
From a clear blue sky and turn it off again
I can stroke your body and relieve your pain
And charm the whistle off an evening train

Silvio silver and gold
Won’t buy back the beat of a heart grown cold
Silvio I gotta go
Find out something only dead men know

Give what I got until I got no more
I take what I get until I even the score
You know I love you and further more
When it is time to go you got an open door

I can tell your fancy I can tell your plain
You give something up for everything you gain
Since every pleasure’s got an edge of pain
Pay for your ticket and don’t complain

Silvio silver and gold
Won’t buy back the beat of a heart grown cold
Silvio I gotta go
Find out something only dead men know

One of these days and it won’t be long
Going down the valley and sing my song
Gonna sing it loud and sing it strong
Let the echo decide if I was right or wrong

Silvio silver and gold
Won’t buy back the beat of a heart grown cold
Silvio I gotta go
Find out something only dead men know

Silvio silver and gold
Won’t buy back the beat of a heart grown cold
Silvio I gotta go
Find out something only dead men know

Silvio silver and gold
Won’t buy back the beat of a heart grown cold
Silvio I gotta go
Find out something only dead men know

Written for Song Lyric Sunday Contrasts.

21 thoughts on “Silver and Gold Makes Him Lifeless and Cold

  1. This was the highlight of that album Jim…this one and his version of Let’s Stick Together. I bought the album because of this song when it came out…and it wasn’t a great album.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great choice. I never knew Bob was with some of the members of The Grateful Dead. Speaking of the band, I have been listening to an album by Billy Cobham recently. You probably know him as he played drums for the band in 1980.

    Liked by 1 person

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