That Lucky Old Sun

by Cleo Hehn

The concert performed by Jerry Garcia Band at Merriweather Post Pavilion in September 1989 may be one of their greatest live performances of all time. A seamless blend of rock, reggae, R&B and gospel, the show spanned two days and covered songs like Beasley Smith and Haven Gillespie’s “That Lucky Old Sun.” These are the moments, and the songs, that inspire us at McMenamins – and they inspired much of the Cove at Kalama Harbor Lodge.

From artist Cleo Hehn:
This classic song has been covered by many artists over the years, five of whom I included in my painting. Frankie Laine sang the original version, and Johnny Cash, Louis Armstrong, Willie Nelson, and Ray Charles all did excellent versions.

The lyrics illustrate feelings of injustice at the workingman’s fate and a longing for rest from work, even if that can only be achieved through death and ascension to heaven.

My painting portrays the working people oppressed by the weight of industry, capitalism, and the suffering caused by endless work. Anonymous figures, eyes closed with effort, support a chaotic and disintegrating abstracted city ruled by a monstrous octopus. This aspect of the painting was influenced by Labor Movement murals and illustrations by artists including Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Hugo Gellert, and Daniel Manrique.

The aforementioned singers emerge from the people, hands held in solidarity, as they plea with the sun for refuge from work. The sun is too busy “rolling around heaven all day” to pay the people any mind, contented to lounge in buttery rolling clouds. Beneath the sun, a skeleton with a crown of flowers combines Grateful Dead imagery with the Greek mythological character Charon, who guides the recent dead into the underworld by taking them across the river Styx in his boat. My hope is that the sun and others in power will be moved by these yearning singers into improving working conditions for the people.

That Lucky Old Sun

Lyrics by Beasley Smith, music by Haven Gillespie 
Lyrics as performed by Jerry Garcia Band live at Merriweather Post Pavilion, Sept. 1989: 
Up in the mornin' 
Out on the job 
Work like the devil for my pay 
But that lucky old sun got nothin' to do 
But roll around heaven all day 
Fuss with my woman, toil with my kids 
Work till I'm wrinkled and gray 
But that lucky old sun has got nothin' to do 
But roll around heaven all day  
Lord above, can't you see I'm crying 
Tears all in my eyes 
Send down that cloud with a silver lining 
Lift me to Paradise  
Show me that river, take me across 
Wash all my troubles away 
Like that lucky old sun, give me nothing to do 
But roll around heaven all day