Robert Hunter, a poet best known for writing the lyrics to many classic Grateful Dead songs, died at the age of 78 on Monday night. His family shared the news in an official statement and urged his fans to celebrate him by listening to his words.
“It is with great sadness we confirm our beloved Robert passed away yesterday night. He died peacefully at home in his bed, surrounded by love. His wife Maureen was by his side holding his hand,” the statement read. “For his fans that have loved and supported him all these years, take comfort in knowing that his words are all around us, and in that way he is never truly gone.”
Born Robert Burns in 1941, Hunter’s career path began in 1961 after he met future Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia in 1961 through the Palo Alto folk music scene. Around the same time, Hunter participated in the government-sponsored LSD tests with writer Ken Kesey that took place at Stanford University, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
When Garcia formed an electric rock group called the Warlocks that later became the Grateful Dead, Hunter decided to focus solely on lyrics. He was known by his bandmates as “the band member that doesn’t come on stage with us.”
Hunter’s most well-known songs include “Dark Star,” “Uncle John’s Band” and the band’s biggest radio hit, “Touch of Grey.”
Although Hunter was known most for collaborating with Garcia, the lyricist also wrote songs with Elvis Costello, Bruce Hornsby and Bob Dylan, according to Rolling Stone.
“He’s got a way with words and I do too,” Dylan previously told the magazine. “We both write a different type of song than what passes today for songwriting.”