David Dodd (ddodd) Wed 3 Sep 03 12:54
He Was A Friend Of Mine w&m: traditional LASF: http://www.whitegum.com/songfile/HE1WASA.HTM
Alex Allan (alexallan) Thu 4 Sep 03 19:11
He Was A Friend of Mine Lyrics: Traditional Music: Traditional Chorus: He was, he was a friend of mine He was, he was a friend of mine Now he's dead and gone This morning my best friend was sleeping in his bed His face like a jewel and he was dead [chorus] He liked to play games or push me on a swing Or push me on a merry-go-round, going round and round [chorus]
Alex Allan (alexallan) Thu 11 Sep 03 19:21
I've always suspected this is a GD original, rather than a cover - even though the version on "Birth of the Dead" is credited as "traditional arr GD" So far as I can tell, it bears no relation to any of the other songs under this title. It's often listed as if it were the same song as the Bob Dylan/Dave Van Ronk one, but it doesn't seem to have anything in common beyond the title. It has the same sort of slightly trippy lyrics found in other very early Dead originals.
Christian Crumlish (xian) Sun 14 Sep 03 14:32
The Byrds version, reconceived as a tribute to JFK, has some lyrics in common with the Dead's. I suspect it is a loose traditional with many variations.
Alex Allan (alexallan) Sun 5 Oct 03 21:39
The line "he was a friend of mine" and the general concept seem to be traditional, but the verses in the Dead's version don't seem to appear in any other version. Musically, it's different too, both from the Dylan/Van Ronk version and the Byrds. Another song that I suspect derives only the title from traditional sources is "Down So Long (It Looks Like Up To Me)"
Alex Allan (alexallan) Sat 17 Sep 05 01:20
Thanks to a tip from Russ Lipetzky, I've discovered that the song we know as "He Was A Friend Of Mine" is in fact "Just A Hand To Hold" by Mark Spoelstra. Spoelstra recorded it on his 1965 LP "5 & 20 Questions" and it was covered in the same year by Kathy and Carol (Kathy Larisch and Carol McComb). I've got a copy of the latter - lyrics below. The Grateful Dead sang just the first few verses. Mark Spoelstra used to perform with Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk et al in New York in the early 1960s, which may explain the loose connection with the song "He Was A Friend Of Mine" that they performed. Just A Hand To Hold Mark Spoelstra He was, he was a friend of mine He was, he was a friend of mine Now he's dead and gone This morning, my best friend Lay still on his bed His face like a jewel And he was dead He was, he was only six years old He was, he was only six years old So I've been told He like to play games Mark, push me on the swing Mark, push me on the merry-go-round Go round and round Swing me, oh swing me, swing me all up and down Spin me, oh spin me, spin me around and round Till my feet touch the ground He never was afraid For he was was brave and bold And the only thing he ever asked for Was a hand to hold It makes no difference where he's from or where's he's bound And it makes no difference if he's lost or been found He's dead and gone But there is no power Anywhere in this land Like the voice used to say Will you hold my hand There is a voice that rings loud throughout this land There is a voice that speaks for the black and tan And for all of man It's young and it's old It's brave and it's bold It can't be bought or sold Just a hand to hold
Earl Crabb (esoft) Sat 17 Sep 05 10:02
<scribbled by esoft Sat 17 Sep 05 15:23>
Earl Crabb (esoft) Sat 17 Sep 05 15:26
no...that isn't right at all...scratch that. About all I can say for sure is that Spoelstra wasn't singing his song in 1963, though he certainly had heard the von Schmidt version, either in Cambridge where Mark was my next-door neighbor, or perhaps Dylan's version, which Dylan attributed to von Schmidt.
David Gans (tnf) Sun 18 Sep 05 22:19
From deadlists: >>>Thanks to a tip from Russ Lipetzky, I've discovered that the song we know as "He Was A Friend Of Mine" is in fact "Just A Hand To Hold" by Mark Spoelstra.<<< Nah, it's a traditional song. It was recorded as "He Was a Friend of Mine" by both Eric Von Schmidt in 1961 and Dave Van Ronk in 1963. And by Bob Dylan in 1961, though not released until later. Although there is apparently a theory that Dylan and Van Ronk actually wrote it. http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=51570 Maybe Spoelstra added some more words to get a writing credit. -Jeff Lester
Alex Allan (alexallan) Sun 18 Sep 05 23:51
I don't have difficulty with Mark Spoelstra having got the idea from the Dylan/Van Ronk etc versions (more background on that at http://www.whitegum.com/songfile/HE1WASA.HTM), but Spoelstra's version isn't just adding some more words: he also adapted the verse structure and the melody. It seems to me that the Dead must have learnt it from the Spoelstra version (or from someone who sang that) - the "face like a jewel" stuff doesn't appear in any other version I know of.
Earl Crabb (esoft) Mon 19 Sep 05 06:08
Is Mark's version online somewhere?
Alex Allan (alexallan) Tue 20 Sep 05 14:32
Not that I can discover. It only seems to be available on the 1965 LP.
Earl Crabb (esoft) Thu 22 Sep 05 01:53
Mark says he wrote it after he left Cambridge, when he was in Fresno doing alternative service, in 1964. It's partly influenced on the van Ronk song, but with an entirely different theme, based on a true story.
Earl Crabb (esoft) Thu 22 Sep 05 10:41
er...influenced _by_, not _on_.
Alex Allan (alexallan) Sun 25 Sep 05 09:59
The liner notes for the "Kathy and Carol" album say that "Mark Spoelstra's comments about the song can be found in Broadside, Issue No. 49" if anyone has access to that.
Earl Crabb (esoft) Sun 25 Sep 05 13:53
I don't, but would love to see it if any else has. My comments in #12 were taken from email from Mark that he sent that day. It would be great to compare that to what he might have said in Broadside! I suspect it would be close. I'll ask Mark if he's got a copy.
David Dodd (ddodd) Tue 27 Sep 05 09:48
San Francisco Public Library has a complete run of Broadside. I could request this article, I guess, unless someone lives there and could just walk in and ask for it!
Earl Crabb (esoft) Tue 27 Sep 05 10:13
cool! I'll be in the city this week, will try to get to the library!
Alex Allan (alexallan) Mon 3 Mar 08 13:57
I discovered that the Mark Spoelstra album "Five And Tweny Questions" has been issued on CD and got myself a copy. It gives a few more details. The song was written as an elegy for a young boy called David Anthony Lee, who was the victim of a hit-and-run accident in the community where Spoeltra lived. Spoelstra says it was performed by Joan Baez and nearly recorded by Joan Collins for an album, so it's possible one of those was the route via which Garcia learnt it.
Tim Lynch (masonskids) Sun 15 May 11 01:14
Here is Broadside issue 49... http://www.broadsidemagazine.com/All/49.pdf
Earl Crabb (esoft) Sun 15 May 11 08:07
Yeah, what's in Broadside is different from the von Schmidt song. In 1963, Mark had tho other side of house I lived in in Cambridge. Sometime that year I played him the tape I made of Dylan in May, 1961, singing the von Schmidt song, crediting von Schmidt in his introduction.
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