I told Althea I was feeling lost
Lacking in some direction
Althea told me upon scrutiny
That my back might need protection
I told Althea that treachery
Was tearing me limb from limb
Althea told me, now cool down boy
Settle back easy, Jim

You may be Saturday's child all grown
Moving with a pinch of grace
You may be a clown in the burying ground
Or just another pretty face
You may be the fate of Ophelia
Sleeping and perchance to dream
Honest to the point of recklessness
Self-centred to the extreme

Ain't nobody messin' with you but you
Your friends are getting most concerned
Loose with the truth, maybe its your fire
Baby I hope you don't get burned
When the smoke has cleared, she said
That's what she said to me
You're gonna want a bed to lay your head
And a little sympathy

There are things you can replace
And others you cannot
The time has come to weigh those things
This space is gettin' hot
You know this space is gettin' hot

I told Althea, I'm a roving sign
That I was born to be a bachelor
Althea told me, OK that's fine
So now I'm trying to catch her
Can't talk to you without talking to me
We're guilty of the same old things
Thinking a lot about less and less
And forgetting the love we bring

Lyrics submitted by itsmyownmind, edited by wdemoss1

Althea Lyrics as written by Robert Hunter Jerry Garcia

Lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

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Althea song meanings
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  • +5
    Song MeaningThe song Althea, one of my favorites by the amazing Jerry G and Robert Hunter, is a profound meditation on death, on world weariness, on the inner anguish that life can put you through and that your own mind can lead you to. And on the process of having the divine speak to you and point out the path that can free you. And how so many times, we ultimately reject that path, we reject the guidance.

    Alethea in Greek Mythology is the daughter of Zeus and is the personifiation of TRUTH.
    My sense of this song is that the singer is having a dialogue with the GODDESS/the divine in it's manifestation as TRUTH.

    In the first three lines, the singer is describing his anguish to the divine:

    "I told Althea I was feeling lost, lacking in some direction.
    Althea told me upon scrutiny that my back might need protection.
    I told Althea that treachery was tearing me limb from limb."

    In the next number of lines, the divine is speaking to him about his predicament:

    "Althea told me better cool down boy, settle back, easy Jim."

    "You may be Saturday's child, all alone, moving with a tinge of grace.
    You may be a clown in the burying ground, or just another pretty face.
    You may meet the fate of Ophelia, sleeping and perchance to dream.
    Honest to the point of recklessness, self-centered in the extreme."

    Here Althea spells out the singers troubles. Ophelia is a character from Shakespears Hamlet who lost her mind. The "clown in the burying ground" suggests laughing in the face of death, perhaps even contemplating suicide. "Sleeping and perchance to dream" is from Hamlet's soliloquy in the same play where he is contemplating whether life is even worth living.
    But, then Althea (TRUTH) smacks the singer with a dose of reality. That his thoughts of death and suicide although "Honest to the point of recklessness" are also "self-centered in the extreme". Self-centered in the sense that he can't see beyond his own pain and is refusing to connect to the divine inspiration which ultimately could prove to be his salvation.

    Then Althea spells it out even clearer to him:

    "Ain't nobody messing with you, but you, your friends are getting most concerned.
    Loose with the TRUTH, baby, it's your fire, but baby don't get burned."

    It is your own mind, your disconnect that is fucking up your life she tells him. It's also your choice. But be careful, you might get burned.

    Then she goes on instructing him:
    "When the smoke has cleared, she said, that's what she said to me.
    Gonna want a bed to lay your head and a little sympathy."

    Once the passion of your madness has cooled, youre going to want some connection, with divine LOVE.

    Althea goes on illuminating his path:

    "There are things you can replace, and others you cannot. (like your life)
    The time has come to weigh those things.
    This space is getting hot, you know this space is getting hot."

    Again, she is spelling out that he has a choice. He has free will. He has decisions and commitments to make. And the time to make them is now.

    After digesting this massive dose of TRUTH, the singer speaks to her:

    "I told Althea I'm a roving son, and I was born to be a bachelor."

    I cant be married to THE TRUTH, he tells her. I'm not ready for it. I have to hold on to my own ego, my own separate identity.

    She answers:
    "Althea told me, okay, that's fine," (God is infinitely patient)

    And having missed the TRUTH, the singer goes back to the game of divine hide and seek, claiming to want to know the truth (and rejecting her when she shows up at his doorstep).
    "so now I'm trying to catch her".

    Having missed the TRUTH, having missed the connection to the divine, the singer then reflects:
    "Can't talk to you without talking to me, we're guilty of the same old thing."
    Cant talk to God without talking to ourselves... and yet...
    "Been talking alot about less and less and forgetting the love we bring."
    We're back in the soup again, talking about less and less and forgetting all about the divine, about LOVE, about TRUTH.

    I have tremendous love and respect for Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter as some of the premier poets of our generation. This amazing songs spells out some of the struggles Jerry himself was going through. On the one hand, he identified with and studied the Christian mystics so he was obviously a deeply spiritual man. On the other hand, he struggled mightily with Heroin addiction, with obesity and undoubtedly with depression. The song Althea in a sense spells out that conflict within Jerry. Seeing God, being so close to God through the creative process of music but ultimately being unable to fully embrace God, falling again and again back into Heroin and self-destruction. Like the song Black Muddy River, and on so many others, Robert Hunter often wrote lyrics that reflected what he saw happening with the Dead. It's amazing that he wrote these lyrics for Jerry and that Jerry chose to sing them, sharing with us all his (and our) perennial struggle to know God.
    ShivaXon April 30, 2011   Link

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