Died, Dug Up and Collapsed

‘Mason’s Children’ is not my favorite Grateful Dead song, but it mentions Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, comprising all of the weekdays, so it works for todays prompt.  The song dates back to 1969 and it was written by Garcia, Lesh, Weir and Hunter and the only other Grateful Dead song that was credited to these four is ‘Truckin’’.  It contains some strange lyrics and Robert Hunter said that the lyrics have something to do with Altamont, so I am gonna go with that and see if this Mason character can be used to represent Meredith Hunter, the man who was killed at Altamont.  I assume it is being sung by Mason’s children, but this song does not give you any of their names, or let you know how many children Mason has.

After Mason died, his children bricked him up in a wall, time goes by and when the children get older, they decide to dig him up.  I don’t think that his carcass was stinking up the house, as they remark that he “hardly aged a day”.  I imagine that his ghost could have been haunting the house, but no reason is given for why they dug him up.  The children comment on how Mason was a mighty man who taught them everything that they know and they say that he didn’t want to be mourned.  Mason is said to be dug up on a Tuesday and this might have something to do with the Grateful Dead learning how bad things became at this concert.  “The wall collapsed on Wednesday” could be about them realizing that they were partly responsible for the tragedy that took place at Altamont and their second-guessing their hiring of Hells Angels to work as security guards.  If Meredith Hunter is the mighty man, this could refer to him trying to climb onto the stage while the rolling stones were playing, and allegedly pulling out a gun.

The wall collapsed where Mason was entombed, but the Grateful Dead left this concert before the killing took place and they never even got on the stage after they heard that somebody punched Marty Ballin in the face, but after the concert, the shit sure hit the fan.  Thus, the lyrics pertaining to the children running and hiding and refusing to ever show their face again, could be about their reluctance to perform at this concert, as the Grateful Dead all stayed in their van.  Some people think this song is about cannibalism, because of the lyrics, “Mason’s children cooked the stew”, but since a stew is a dish that is immersed in liquid and slowly simmered, I think this means that the Grateful Dead were consumed with this tragedy and they knew that they had to deal with it.  The cleanup was going to be messy, as this event was becoming known as “Rock’s Darkest Day”, happening only 4 months after Woodstock.  I don’t think that Mason is being cooked in a stew and eaten, as the stew probably refers to the mess that Altamont had become.  The last verse talks about the Reaper Man, but I have seen other lyrics that say repo man and they end this song talking about getting stoned.

A lot of people think this song has something to do with Freemasons, because of the main character Mason, but I don’t see that, and many people go with the children eating the flesh of their father in the stew, but Robert Hunter songs are hard to interpret.  These analysts mention the Edgar Allen Poe story, The Cask of Amontillado, where someone is murdered by being bricked up in a wall, that contains a dialogue between two characters in which both reveal they are Masons.  A lot of them also mention the Robert Heinlein story Stranger in a Strange Land, where Valentine Michael Smith, is boiled in a soup and consumed by his followers after his death.

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

We dug him up on Tuesday
He’d hardly aged a day
Taught us all he 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 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, then 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

Written for Song Lyric Sunday where the prompt is Days of the Week.

23 thoughts on “Died, Dug Up and Collapsed

  1. I think you’ve interpreted it pretty well Jim. It’s quite an enjoyable song as long as you don’t think about the lyrics too much. I reckon anyone would be looking forward to the weekend after a week like that!

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    1. It was a big deal for the Grateful Dead to be playing at the Altamont concert with the Rolling Stones, as they were the reason that the band changed their style of music from jug band to rock. The concert was a disaster and it ended the 60s on a sour note.

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    1. I think the lyrics in this song were misdiagnosed, because it never says that Mason’s children had anything to do with his death and it does not say that they made a stew out of him and ate him. The lyrics are about the Altamont concert and the horrible death that took place there.

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  2. I am learning a lot about the Grateful Dead from reading your blog. Intrigued here to read more about Altamonte, definite “must-know” knowledge if you have a curiosity about rock ‘n roll and the Rolling Stones. Tragic what happened, of course.

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