MMH - Museum of Media History
Art Of The CIA’s MKULTRA Program — The Grateful Dead (1970)
If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung
Would you hear my voice come through the music
Would you hold it near as it were your own?
It's a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken
Perhaps they're better left unsung
I don't know, don't really care
Let there be songs to fill the air
Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow
Reach out your hand if your cup be empty
If your cup is full may it be again
Let it be known there is a fountain
That was not made by the hands of men
There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone
Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow
You who choose to lead must follow
But if you fall you fall alone
If you should stand then who's to guide you?
If I knew the way I would take you home
Songwriters: Jerome J. Garcia / Robert C. Hunter
Ripple lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group
The Grateful Dead - Ripple
Robert Hunter, wrote this song in 1970 in London in the same afternoon he wrote "Brokedown Palace" and "To Lay Me Down" (reputedly also drinking an entire bottle of retsina in the process). The song debuted August 18, 1970 at Fillmore West in San Francisco.
Like many folk songs, "Ripple" addresses itself as a song and an instrument of the performers' emotional expression. Several lines throughout the song echo the 23rd Psalm of the Bible.
Published by Nickxdax on Mar 24, 2010
Wikipedia: Robert Hunter (lyricist)
Around 1962, Hunter was an early volunteer test subject (along with Ken Kesey) for psychedelic chemicals at Stanford University's research covertly sponsored by the CIA in their MKULTRA program. He was paid to take LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline and report on his experiences, which were creatively formative for him:
"Sit back picture yourself swooping up a shell of purple with foam crests of crystal drops soft nigh they fall unto the sea of morning creep-very-softly mist...and then sort of cascade tinkley-bell like (must I take you by the hand, every so slowly type) and then conglomerate suddenly into a peal of silver vibrant uncomprehendingly, blood singingly, joyously resoundingbells....By my faith if this be insanity, then for the love of God permit me to remain insane."
Robert Hunter on Grateful Dead’s Early Days, Wild Tours, ‘Sacred’ Songs
And legend has it you were the first in the gang to try LSD, thanks to a testing program at a VA hospital.
I used to do psychology experiments — you could get $10 or $15 for doing them, and this was one of them, only this paid better. I had a romping good time. They wanted to find out was whether it increased my ability to be hypnotized. Just a couple of years back I found out it was military or the CIA or something, that they were trying to find its value as a weapon. For me they would’ve found out absolutely nothing. I told Jerry, but there was no way to get ahold of any of this stuff; it wasn’t on the streets yet or anything. It wasn’t until I’d say a good two years later when Jerry took it and he and Sarah [Ruppenthal, Garcia’s first wife] came over to my house. They were on acid and said, “What do we do now?” I said, “Go home, put on a Ravi Shankar record, just listen to the music.” It worked. That was good advice, no?
Did the CIA’s Experiments With Psychedelic Drugs Unwittingly Create the Grateful Dead?
In fact, the Acid Tests were somewhat late to the psychedelic party. The CIA began experimenting with LSD in the early 1950s, dosing everyone from prisoners to prostitutes (usually without warning, let alone consent) to study the drug’s disorienting effects. That’s how Ken Kesey learned about the drug in 1959, when he signed up to be a test subject in the CIA’s notorious MKUltra program. Future Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter was also willingly dosed by the CIA.
For Garcia, the ability of the Acid Tests to stop the world for a while and then remind you that it was still spinning was one of its key lessons. The Acid Tests, he says in Signpost, were
“our first exposure to formlessness. Formlessness and chaos lead to new forms. And new order. Closer to, probably, what the real order is. When you break down the old orders and the old forms and leave them broken and shattered, you suddenly find yourself a new space with new form and new order which are more like the way it is. More like the flow.”
To put Garcia’s formulation in terms a contemporary Silicon Valley venture capitalist might understand, LSD was a disruptive technology, except that instead of upending mere transactions such as hailing a cab or renting a hotel room, the things being disrupted were the basic conventions of society, which is why mainstream America was, and remains, so terrified of the drug.
10 Real Victims Of The CIA’s MKULTRA Programhttps://listverse.com/2015/05/28/10-real-victims-of-the-cias-mkultra-program/
Robert Hunter, a lyricist and longtime collaborator with the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia, was exposed to the same testing as Kesey, though he had no idea that it was a part of the MKULTRA project until many years later. Hunter had a very different experience from Bulger, saying the following in an interview with Reuters in 2013:
"I couldn’t figure out why they were paying me to take these psychedelics. What they wanted to do was to check if I was more hypnotizable when I was on them. It was hard to pay attention to what the hell they were talking about, much less be hypnotized. It was the first time I had had any of this stuff, and the drugs in themselves were rather spectacular. Nobody had had my experiences, and it was at least two years before those drugs started getting out on the street. It was like a secret club of one."
As a songwriter, Hunter is responsible for some of the most cherished songs in the Dead’s expansive catalog, including “Ripple,” “Uncle John’s Band,” “Dark Star,” and “Box of Rain,” and his talents will be honored in the summer of 2015 when he is scheduled for enshrinement into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, joining the likes of Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie. Through the CIA testing, Hunter was the first of his social circle to try LSD by a few years, so when Garcia took LSD for the first time, it was Hunter who advised him:
“Go home, put on a Ravi Shankar record, just listen to the music.”
Grateful Dead songwriter hits the road for rare tour
Hunter’s lyrics provided a psychedelic aura that aided the Grateful Dead rise to fame. But years before the band’s music helped fuel writer Ken Kesey’s LSD “Acid Tests” parties in the 1960s, Hunter and Kesey were subjects in the CIA’s MKUltra program to test psychedelic drugs as mind-control agents.
He said he did not learn until much later that the CIA ran the program, which was made public in 1975.
“I couldn’t figure out why they were paying me to take these psychedelics. What they wanted to do was to check if I was more hypnotizable when I was on them,” he said. “It was hard to pay attention to what the hell they were talking about, much less be hypnotized.”
When the experiment ended, Hunter said, it was a hard experience to relate to:
“It was the first time I had had any of this stuff, and the drugs in themselves were rather spectacular. Nobody had had my experiences, and it was at least two years before those drugs started getting out on the street. It was like a secret club of one.”
The Acid Tests
December 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the “Acid Tests,” events held by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters in partnership with legendary musicians The Grateful Dead. Acid, also known as LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is a powerful hallucinogen that elicits a variety of psychoactive effects in users. Although the Acid Tests took place over less than one year, their influences continue to ripple through American culture and counterculture.
LSD was first synthesized and tested by Dr. Albert Hofmann in 1943. The CIA experimented with LSD in the 1950s for its potential use in psychological warfare; and in 1975 the United States Army acknowledged that it had administered LSD to nearly 1,500 people between 1956 and 1967 to test the drug’s military potential.
By the early 1960s, several leading universities had begun to investigate the psychological effects and health benefits of LSD. Most famously, between 1961 and 1963, Harvard professors Dr. Timothy Leary and Dr. Richard Alpert (now known as Ram Das) tested Acid for its therapeutic use.
The legacies of the short-lived Acid Tests are still with us today. Through the grassroots acid experimentation started by Ken Kesey, the Pranksters, and the Grateful Dead in 1965, LSD became a central part of the influential hippie subculture of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The drug acted as a revolutionary tool and language that allowed a growing youth counterculture to cohere and speak out against mainstream social and political institutions, including the U.S. war in Vietnam.
Leary, for one, promoted ideas such as
“Turn on, tune in, drop out.”
“Think for yourself and question authority.”
Moreover, Harvard Acid pioneer Richard Alpert was motivated by his experiences with LSD to seek out spiritual counsel in India, which ultimately led him to author his famous book “Be Here Now” that spoke to countless spiritually oriented hippies, many of whom came to the book through LSD experimentation.