Bertha

Lyrics: Robert Hunter
Music: Jerry Garcia

I had a hard run
Running from your window
I was all night running, running
Lord, I wonder if you care
I had a run in
Run around and a run down
Run around the corner, corner
Lord, I ran smack into a tree

Chorus
I had to move
Really had to move
That's why if you please
I am on my bended knees
Bertha, don't you come around here any more

Dressed myself in green
Lord I went down unto the sea
Try to see what's going down
Lord, try to read between the lines
I had a feeling I was falling, falling, falling
Lord, I turned round to see
Heard a voice a-calling
Lord you was coming after me (note a)

[chorus]

Ran into a rain-storm
Ducked into a bar door
(note b)
It's all night pouring, pouring rain
Lord but not a drop on me
Test me, test me, test me, test me, test me
(note c)
Why don't you arrest me
Throw me in the jail house
Lord, until the sun go down

[chorus]
Notes
(a) these are the lyrics in "Box of Rain" and in the sheet music. But Garcia sang "Lord you was running back to me" at least in the version on Skull & Roses. (Thanks to Eric McKay for pointing this out)
(b) The lyrics on dead.net are "Ducked back into Novato" but I think that's a mistake (thanks to Phil Hubbard for pointing this out)
(c) two "test me"s in "Box of Rain", four in the sheet music, but five is what Jerry sings on "Skull & Roses." (thanks to Mike Scroggins for pointing this out)

There has been an oft-repeated story that the song derived from an electric fan in either the Grateful Dead's offices or their rehearsal studios. The fan used to act up and 'walk' around the space. In an interview in March 1978 with Denis McNamara for 92.7 WLIR-FM Garden City, New York for the "Sunday At 9:00" program, Robert Hunter addressed this story:
Interviewer: What about Bertha? Is it true she was a fan? An electrical fan?

Robert Hunter: No, this was after the fact.I don't know where that story ... I think they started calling this fan in the office that would run around and try and catch everyone and cut their fingers off. They started calling it Bertha. But no, this is not true. Bertha, I think, is probably some vaguer connotation of birth, death and reincarnation. Cycle of existences, some kind of such nonsense like that. I wouldn't be surprised, but then again, it might not be. I don't remember.
Jerry Garcia, however, cited the story of the fan in a 1979 interview on WMMR in Philadelphia:
Interviewer: Is there a real Bertha, and who is she?

Jerry Garcia: No, well there is a real Bertha , but the real Bertha was not a she, the real Bertha was an it. The real Bertha was this sort of military spec fan - that is to say the kind that spins around and you plug into the wall - [interviewer: an air circulator?] - that's right - that we used to have in our old office, and the thing had something that was like - must have been a drill press motor put on it - you know, an incredible high speed motor that was adapted to this fan, and when you plugged it in, it pushed the body of the fan across the room - it wouldn't stay in one place and circulate air, it actually propelled itself, and this thing would bump into the walls, and it was just incredible, you know, this huge over-powered fan. And we called it Bertha. That's what Bertha is"


Grateful Dead Recordings

Covers By Other Artists


Further Information
For an online discussion of the lyrics to this song see the deadsongs.vue conference on The Well.
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography
For information on references in the lyrics see David Dodd's Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics
For David Dodd's discussion of this song on dead.net see Greatest Stories Ever Told
For online chords and TAB see www.rukind.com
For sheet music, see:
          Grateful Dead Anthology Volume 1 (piano arrangement)
          Grateful Dead Authentic Guitar Classics Volume 2 (guitar TAB)
          Garcia/Hunter Songbook (vocal line and chords/TAB)

 


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