"Cumberland Blues" as written by Jerome J. Garcia, Philip Lesh and Robert C. Hunter....
I can't stay here much longer, Melinda
The sun is getting high
I can't help you with your troubles
If you won't help with mine
I gotta get down
I gotta get down
Gotta get down to the mine

You keep me up just one more night
I can't stop here no more
Little Ben clock says quarter to eight
You kept me up till four
I gotta get down
I gotta get down
Or I can't work there no more

Lotta poor man make a five dollar bill
Will keep him happy all the time
Some other fellow's making nothing at all
And you can hear him cry

Can I go, buddy, can I go down
Take your shift at the mine
Gotta get down to the Cumberland mine
Gotta get down to the Cumberland mine
That's where I mainly spend my time

Make good money, five dollars a day
If I made any more I might move away

Lotta poor man got the Cumberland Blues
He can't win for losing
Lotta poor man got to walk the line
Just to pay his union dues

I don't know now, I just don't know
If I'm coming back again
I don't know now, I just don't know
If I'm coming back again
I don't know now, I just don't know
If I'm coming back again

Lyrics submitted by itsmyownmind

"Cumberland Blues" as written by Robert Hunter Jerry Garcia

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

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Cumberland Blues song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentThis song is about being a coal miner, in the past, I think in central Appalachia (Cumberland is a town in the mountains of Maryland about a half an hour from the West Virginia line. I'm also pretty sure its a region of the appalachian mountains). The job was hard, the pay was poor, and the mining company tried to take advantage of its employees. I think the voice of the song stays up late having sex and it makes his job harder because hes sleepy.
    purplemnkey87on March 09, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis doesnt really have to do much w/ the song but bobby weir is a pimp.....dont believe me--->reference--newminglewood blues or your pregnant daughter
    miloon March 27, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentCumberland is really close to the eastern pandhandle of West Virginia. Its about a half hour from the bulk of West Virginia.
    purplemnkey87on June 23, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti live in cumberland, rhode island
    Juice 11on January 10, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'm sorta siding withpurplemnkey because it does make a lot of sense.

    However, said that there's a Cumberland Rhode Island. During the American Revolution Rhode Islanders were mostly rogues and theives and the British went after them because they were smugglers. A mine, being an underground thing, could also stand for smuggling business.
    I don't think my theories likely because 1) The Dead didn't usually write music based on things so long ago (I think) and 2) The whole scenario that the first theory puts forth matches most of the song's words better historically speaking , (like "Union dues")
    Thegodofhatson February 07, 2007   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningWhile the "Cumberland" in this song means that it is probably about mining in Appalachia, it doesn’t stop the song from representing miners in just about any location and any time. The basic problems have plagued most laborers operating outside of actual slavery/serfdom. I’m actually reading Emile Zola’s Germinal right now. It is about 18th century coal mine workers in France. The really funny thing is that besides working hard in the mines for little money, the other thing the miners mainly do is have sex. Things are pretty much the same everywhere!
    clovuson January 08, 2009   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationI think the key lyric is "Lotta poor man got to walk the line Just to pay his union dues." So no matter, you Pay The Man. The only way out is to create yourself. Free minds, free markets. Parents are the number one stifler of a child's creativity, then come the public schools. After that it is amazing any child overcomes the constant onslaught of b.s.

    "I don't know now, I just don't know If I'm goin' back again." Don't!
    YaddaMinskion February 15, 2012   Link

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