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deadsongs.vue.90 : He Was A Friend Of Mine
permalink #0 of 20: 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
  
deadsongs.vue.90 : He Was A Friend Of Mine
permalink #1 of 20: 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]
  
deadsongs.vue.90 : He Was A Friend Of Mine
permalink #2 of 20: 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.
  
deadsongs.vue.90 : He Was A Friend Of Mine
permalink #3 of 20: 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.
  
deadsongs.vue.90 : He Was A Friend Of Mine
permalink #4 of 20: 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)"
  
deadsongs.vue.90 : He Was A Friend Of Mine
permalink #5 of 20: 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
  
deadsongs.vue.90 : He Was A Friend Of Mine
permalink #6 of 20: Earl Crabb (esoft) Sat 17 Sep 05 10:02
    <scribbled by esoft Sat 17 Sep 05 15:23>
  
deadsongs.vue.90 : He Was A Friend Of Mine
permalink #7 of 20: 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.
  
deadsongs.vue.90 : He Was A Friend Of Mine
permalink #8 of 20: 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
  
deadsongs.vue.90 : He Was A Friend Of Mine
permalink #9 of 20: 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.
  
deadsongs.vue.90 : He Was A Friend Of Mine
permalink #10 of 20: Earl Crabb (esoft) Mon 19 Sep 05 06:08
    
Is Mark's version online somewhere?
  
deadsongs.vue.90 : He Was A Friend Of Mine
permalink #11 of 20: Alex Allan (alexallan) Tue 20 Sep 05 14:32
    
Not that I can discover. It only seems to be available on the 1965 LP.
  
deadsongs.vue.90 : He Was A Friend Of Mine
permalink #12 of 20: 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.
  
deadsongs.vue.90 : He Was A Friend Of Mine
permalink #13 of 20: Earl Crabb (esoft) Thu 22 Sep 05 10:41
    
er...influenced _by_, not _on_.
  
deadsongs.vue.90 : He Was A Friend Of Mine
permalink #14 of 20: 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.
 
  
deadsongs.vue.90 : He Was A Friend Of Mine
permalink #15 of 20: 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.
  
deadsongs.vue.90 : He Was A Friend Of Mine
permalink #16 of 20: 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!
  
deadsongs.vue.90 : He Was A Friend Of Mine
permalink #17 of 20: 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!
  
deadsongs.vue.90 : He Was A Friend Of Mine
permalink #18 of 20: 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.
  
deadsongs.vue.90 : He Was A Friend Of Mine
permalink #19 of 20: Tim Lynch (masonskids) Sun 15 May 11 01:14
    
Here is Broadside issue 49...

http://www.broadsidemagazine.com/All/49.pdf
  
deadsongs.vue.90 : He Was A Friend Of Mine
permalink #20 of 20: 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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