deadsongs.vue.222 : What's Become Of The Baby
permalink #0 of 7: David Dodd (ddodd) Mon 8 Sep 03 09:50
What's Become Of The Baby
w: Hunter m: Garcia
deadsongs.vue.222 : What's Become Of The Baby
permalink #1 of 7: Alex Allan (alexallan) Mon 8 Sep 03 18:41
What's Become Of The Baby 
Lyrics: Robert Hunter
Music: Jerry Garcia

Copyright Ice Nine Publishing; used by permission.

Waves of violet go crashing and laughing
Rainbow winged singing birds fly round the sun
Sunbells rain down in liquid profusion
Mermaids on porpoises draw up the dawn

What's become of the baby
This cold December morning

Songbirds frozen in their flight
Drifting to the earth
Remnants of forgotten dreams
Calling; answer comes there none
Go to sleep you child
Dream of never ending always

Panes of crystal
Eyes sparkle like waterfalls
Lighting the polished ice caverns of Khan
But where in the looking-glass fields of illusion
Wandered the child who was perfect dawn

What's become of the baby
This cold December morning

Racing, rhythms of the sun
All the world revolves
Captured in the eye of Odin
Allah, pray where are you now
All Mohammed's men blinded by the sparkling waters

Sheherezade gathering stories to tell
From primal gold fantasy petals that fall
But where is the child
Who played with the sun chimes
And chased the cloud sheep
To the regions of rhyme

Stranded cries the south wind
Lost in the regions of lead
Shackled by chains of illusion
Delusions of living and dead
deadsongs.vue.222 : What's Become Of The Baby
permalink #2 of 7: Back in Columbia Blue: (oilers1972) Sat 12 Sep 15 01:13
This song has always seemed to me to be a rather imagistic (and
hallucinatory) paean to the end of what had animated the
Haight-Ashbury scene just a few years earlier.  The "baby"
symbolizes the innocence of the flower children, as it seems to me. 
And the December morning (even though Hunter wrote this in or
possibly prior to 1968) of the song fits December 1969 and its
several events that summed up/symbolized the end of the Sixties for
many (Altamont, Manson, the Chicago police murder of Fred Hampton,
the activities of the Weatherfolk [who at that time were planning to
blow up a ball for military personnel and their wives and possibly a
police station or two] and the similar turns a number of other
political radicals and some of the counterculture were making toward
embracing violence as a method of changing society).

In fact, the line "Lost in the regions of lead" sounds like those
once-peaceful hippies who were now ready to get guns and practice
what a famous poster of the era called "Armed Love."  This also
describes the Weatherpersons at that time aptly.  The next line,
"Shackled in the chains of illusion," bemoans those who now believed
that violent overthrow of the government and/or violent, armed
self-defense against reactionary forces was the way to go.   This,
on another hand, could also express how the once optimistic feelings
that had held sway in America as a whole were now corroded by the
destructive and divisive war in Vietnam, and by the fact that the
forces that supported the war were now increasingly willing to use
their guns on protestors (i.e. Reagan's call for a bloodbath on
America's college  campuses) as they already had done with the Black
Panthers and, in fact, had done during the People's Park
confrontation in May 1969, and would more famously do at Kent State
and Jackson State one year later.

"Sheherezade gathering stories to tell/From primal gold fantasy
petals that fall" reads as Sheherezade, the heroine of _1000 Arabian
Nights_ who famously told the sultan/king a different unresolved
tale every night to prolong her life for another 24 hours until he
finally rescued her from his doom, gathering stories (or songs, or
any other type of art) from her imagination (possibly supercharged
with a natural or chemical agent or two?), possibly once meant just
for sharing with those of her tribe/community and instead selling
them to the wider world to pay for her day-to-day survival in this
world (in the same way that the band themselves had to sell records
and [especially] go out on the road and play live as many nights as
possible in order to financially support themselves and their own
extended family, as well as to pay off their now humongous debt to
their record label--so they could survive to make more records and
play more shows).  What a change from just a few years earlier and
the feelings of giddy optimism that grass would grow and deer would
graze on that grass on Wall Street in just a few years, once the
rest of the world got turned on to acid.  That was also expressed in
the poem "All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace" by Richard
Brautigan which was an expression of the idea that advancing
industrial automation/cybernization would lead to an economy where
machines would do all of the work that was still (and much of it
still) being done by humans and humans would  then be able to lead
lives  of leisure (provided, of course, everyperson was then 
guaranteed a livable income or all goods and services were made
free) and now this was already appearing to not be the case (in
fact, the American economy would undergo changes that were quite

In quite a few ways, "What's Become Of  The Baby" would prove to be
prophetic as well as expressive of its time and of a time that had
just recently passed.  Or, acid to acid, dust to dust.
deadsongs.vue.222 : What's Become Of The Baby
permalink #3 of 7: David Gans (tnf) Sat 12 Sep 15 08:41
Jeez, now I have to listen to this weird thing! I have never given
it much thought.
deadsongs.vue.222 : What's Become Of The Baby
permalink #4 of 7: David Dodd (ddodd) Sat 12 Sep 15 16:07
Me, too! Amazing post, <oilers1972>.
deadsongs.vue.222 : What's Become Of The Baby
permalink #5 of 7: Back in Columbia Blue: (oilers1972) Sat 12 Sep 15 22:30
Thank you both!
deadsongs.vue.222 : What's Become Of The Baby
permalink #6 of 7: Back in Columbia Blue: (oilers1972) Sat 12 Sep 15 23:33
I also think that the Stockhausen-esque backing accompaniment on the
original mix for Garcia's singing helps convey the feeling of "what
manner of world have we wrought?" better than musical accompaniment
that matches or even responds contrapuntally to the melody in the
vocals.  Surely, when in a state of supercharged or unconventional
imagination, this sort of juxtaposition can make sense, even if it's
not a kind of sense that we might consider to be conventional.  At
the same time, this does give the song a feeling of alien
unfamiliarity, which is also one of the points of the psychedelic
experience.  (On the remixed version of _Aoxomoxoa_, this backing
was erased and this version of the song sounds more like an
aftermath of Paradise as sung from exile from that Paradise.)  But
in this song, even here in psychedelia, all is not
peace-love-and-flowers.  But of course, there is no guarantee that
such experiences, like any other type of life experience, will
remain, or even ever be to begin with, idyllic or fun.  And, as I'm
sure Hunter would agree, the psychedelic community that flourished
in the Haight eventually turned sour for a number of reasons and
even in the Haight's heyday, not all there were always having a good

Interesting that the next (and last) song on the album is "Cosmic
Charlie" which sounds musically like a mid-tempo country song
(although earlier versions were in a more uptempo rock rendition,
akin to the Beatles' "Revolution."  Maybe Hunter and/or the band, or
some of the band, themselves flirted a bit with the same
revolution-at-any-price ideas expressed in an earlier post, but
thought better of that soon after).  This is interesting, in that
when _Aoxomoxoa_ was released in June 1969, the Dead were already
writing and integrating the first of several country-influenced
simple melodic tunes like "Dire Wolf" and "Casey Jones" into their
live repertoire, even as they continued their nightly excursions
into their more improvisationally-oriented/visionary material like 
"Dark Star" and "That's It for the Other One," which from this point
would begin to become a bit less nightly.  I do not think the band
planned it that way, but I do find it remarkable that this recorded
song sequence came to become an allegory for the stylistic turn the
Dead were beginning to take.  (Also, by this time they had already
begun to phase out most of the other songs from the album; only
"Cosmic Charlie," "St. Stephen," and "China Cat Sunflower" would
still be in the repertoire by the end of 1969, and only "China Cat
Sunflower," which pre-dated this album, would remain in the regular
repertoire through the remainder of the band's history, with a brief
break here and there.) 
deadsongs.vue.222 : What's Become Of The Baby
permalink #7 of 7: it all rolls into one (sffog) Sun 13 Sep 15 15:10
I saw this song as leaving one’s childhood behind, but I can also
see it apply to the Haight-Ashbury or even the grateful dead’s music

Some of the lyrics remind me of some of the country joe and the fish
lyrics for their song Porpoise Mouth:

The white ducks fly on past the sun,
Their wings flash silver at the moon.
While waters rush down the mountain tongue

The subject reminded me of Jefferson Airplane’s song Lather about
growing up or not.

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