The Grateful Dead: Ship of Fools Meaning
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Ship of Fools Lyrics
anonymous Jan 26th, 1:18am report
My Uncle said that Jerry was on a Merchant Marine Ship with him around 1958 & they traveled up the Campbell River to Canada carrying wood pulp for paper products.. Jerry worked as a Steward Assistant in the Galley (which was the entry level position) & he would have been between 16 & 17 years old...Although Jerry liked the ice cream.. (the ice cream hutch being where my Uncle kept bumping into him) He didn't stick with that Trade very long.. only in it a short time..from what my Uncle said. (who was in the Union for 25 years) I think it was that the laws had recently changed in 1956 regarding the treatment of Merchant Marines & that how previously to that, they had been treated as "Slaves"..it was after a massive Strike led by the Sailors Union of the Pacific that things started changing..I'm sure promises were made to Ship Workers that conditions aboard Ship would get better soon, yet it probably took time for the Authorities to change their ways & ultimately the conditions under the new laws.. if this were the case, many might have joined up under the promise of new laws, & found the "same old, same old" taking place out at Sea.
Being treated as Slaves.. on the Ship Of Fools..
anonymous Sep 2nd, 2014 9:57pm report
This song is about a child growing up under strict rule of his father. His father is stupid and knows nothing in his mind as a teenager, but by the time he actually matures(30 years) he realizes his father is far wiser than he ever thought, and now that he has realized this, his father is dead and cannot share any wonderment of life with him. It's a common story that we've all been though and have regretted as we've grown older.
It starts off needing to get our of the house or from under his thumb. He'll take any job, any place to live because it's got to be better than home.
His father, not a family man is alone and sad, takes to drinking(bottles once filled are now empty), and as much as he hates him he'll watch over the 'fool' until his day comes when he can live on his own, but will not help(or lend a hand) him drink.
Father dies, he grows up, realized it's forever......
It was later than I thought, when I first believed you
Now I cannot share your laughter, ship of fools
It was later than I thought when I first believed you
Now I cannot share your laughter, ship of fools
anonymous Apr 9th, 2011 4:28pm report
it is about the group mind how the family is in and the ones that dont get the group mind are out. They want so bad to be a part of something but they are not cool enough even with the ever inviting grateful dead.
anonymous Jan 28th, 2011 1:55pm report
This is just an idea, as the term "ship of fools" came up in class when we were interpreting this photo, but also you can find a jerry bear looking creature peeking in between the woman and the peacock. It's just an idea, but y'all give your opinions on it
anonymous Sep 16th, 2010 9:29pm report
I asked Jerry about this song once. He said it was a reflection on the end of the Acid Test era--Kesey being a 'strange' Captain. He also said "the human body does not have the ability to fully digest either peanuts or corn". This explains why when Jerry didn't believe what someone was saying he would softly mutter,:"peanuts and corn,man..."
anonymous Apr 5th, 2010 4:30am report
more specifically, the song is about an American court room. the judge is the captain. American courts still operate under admiralty laws that boats used to operate under in open sea. the fools are all people participating in the antics of unconstitutional court rooms, when they could be true sovereign citizens.
anonymous Jul 16th, 2009 7:37am report
Not sure exactly with this one. I have read it is about Jerry's heroin addiction. I have also read it is about the band's overall problems including drugs, drinking and women. Either way the "ship of fool's" is something negative that was not taken care of promptly.. likely addiction. "it was later than I thought when I first believed you.. now I cannot share your laughter ship of fools." Ship of fools most likely being the ignorance that goes with not wanting to believe you have a problem and everyone encouraging your problem; hence making them and you a fool. "I cannot share your laughter" meaning you can no longer participate in the "fools" activities and that it's no longer fun for you...goes with heroin addiction no longer being about having fun but continuing b/c of the withdrawals. "but I would slave the way to sing your ship of fools." I believe this means that he is looking desperately for a way to displace himself from the "fools". "saw your first ship sink and drown from rocking of the boat and all that could not sink or swim was just left there to float." Maybe referring to the "rocking of the boat" as doing too much and realizing it. "all that could not sink or swim just left there to float". Maybe referring to everything in his life that he didn't ruin hence "sink" and everything that he did not move forward in bc of his addiction "swim". "just left there to float" refers to the times when he didn't do nothing...probably his high and dope sick times. A statement like "just...to float" refers to lack of control and motivation to do anything...negative "sink" or positive "swim". When your high or going through withdrawal you feel like you are just floating through life with little control or ability to "steer" in one direction or the other. You are in a since giving the drug control "current" in your life.
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