‘Attics Of My Life’ is a Grateful Dead song which is sung a cappella, featuring a vocally challenging harmony which is filled with melody from their 1970 American Beauty album written by Garcia and Hunter. ‘Attics of My Life’ is about being a songwriter, and it is about the songwriter’s relationship to something that is greater than themselves. Robert Hunter said about this tune, “If I could say it in prose, I wouldn’t need to write the song.” This song is really a poem and poetry is evocative, it’s meant to communicate to deeper levels and approach the levels of non-verbal experience, thus this song is meant to touch your soul. A soul exists to create things and if your soul lacks the ability to create, that could be because you are out of inspiration.
The attics of a person’s life could be a reference to looking back at your younger self, or an attic can be used to store things, like a person’s memory. This song is full of vivid images like, “cloudy dreams”, “tastes no tongue can know” and “lights no eye can see”. This song contains a group of unlikely scenarios such as, “When there was no ear to hear You sang to me, I have spent my life Seeking all that’s still unsung, Bent my ear to hear the tune, And closed my eyes to see, When there were no strings to play You played to me.” Hunter wrote, “When I had no wings to fly You flew to me” and these words say love or desire to be with someone making this a spiritual song, almost hymn-like exhibiting the concept of grace.
What a nice gesture that would be to sing to someone without ears and it is a nearly impossible feat to play without strings (although Jimi Hendrix was known for playing his guitar without touching the strings), but spending your life in search of what is unsung and closing your eyes to see, are lyrics that make up the essence of poetry. This song gets really deep here, “In the book of love’s own dreams Where all the print is blood Where all the pages are my days And all my lights grow old”. When you have no wings to fly, it might be time to pack it in, as once your inspiration has dried up there is nothing left of your soul. Kind of sad, but this was a sad time for the Grateful Dead as Garcia’s mother had just been in a car crash and Phil Lesh just lost his father. This song does end on a happy note, “When there was no dream of mine You dreamed of me”.
Robert Hunter was an avid reader and there is a real good chance that he was familiar with the 17th century Quaker activist Mary Dyer who left England in 1635 as an outlaw, because the Puritan religious faith was declared illegal by the national Church of England, but her faith came first, even if it meant her death. She sailed with her husband William Dyer to New England and arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony where the Puritan Church governed all aspects of life and Mary began to doubt some of their church’s teachings, which was not good as anyone who questioned the official faith was treated as a criminal. Mary Dyer was convicted and sentenced to be executed and as she was escorted to the place where she would be hanged, she said, “It is an hour of the greatest joy I can enjoy in this world. No eye can see, no ear can hear, no tongue can speak, no heart can understand the sweet incomes and refreshings of the spirit of the Lord which now I enjoy.” If Hunter drew on this quote for his song, he used the eye seeing and the ear hearing sensory organ expressions, but he changed the tongue to tasting instead of speaking.
Several Biblical references also include this theme, as in 1 Corinthians 2:9, Paul says, “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”, and in Isaiah 64:4 it is written, “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” Jesus said to His apostles, “I will give you what no eye has seen and what no ear has heard and what no hand has touched and what has not entered into the heart of man.
In the attics of my life
Full of cloudy dreams; unreal
Full of tastes no tongue can know
And lights no eye can see
When there was no ear to hear
You sang to me
I have spent my life
Seeking all that’s still unsung
Bent my ear to hear the tune
And closed my eyes to see
When there were no strings to play
You played to me
In the book of love’s own dreams
Where all the print is blood
Where all the pages are my days
And all my lights grow old
When I had no wings to fly
You flew to me
You flew to me
In the secret space of dreams
Where I dreaming lay amazed
When the secrets all are told
And the petals all unfold
When there was no dream of mine
You dreamed of me
Written for Love Is In Da Blog where Bee says that this extra February Day can be used as a good-by, so we can choose whichever love song we like.