(this is one of my favorite Dead songs)
anyway this is from Deadsongs.vue
In the Annotated "Wharf Rat," a Mr. Walt K wrote in about "Purly
Baker," head of the Anti-Saloon league from 1903 to the early 1920's.
You [i.e. David Dodd] responded by agreeing with his reference, but
then said, "In the song, of course, Pearly Baker, with the different
spelling, becomes a woman. But the reference has interesting
implications for the song's meaning-which, of course, I leave up to
Rather than assume Hunter made Pearly Baker a woman, I read the poem
as the narrator mistaking August West's statements . . .
My name is August West
and I love my Pearly Baker best
more than my wine
....more than My wine
more than my maker
though he's no friend of mine
Here, rather than assume "he's no friend of mine" applies to "my
maker," I'd argue it applies to Pearly Baker . . . August says I love
Pearly Baker better than wine or God, but Pearly's no friend of mine.
West knows who the Rev Baker is; and the next verse I think supports
this interpretation (of he's no friend of mine):
I'd come to no good
I knew I would
Pearly believed them
August is complaining here that everyone said the booze would do him
in; he didn't agree, but Pearly (Rev. Baker - the prohibitionist)
agreed with the assessment that booze is bad.
Later, we read this:
Pearly's been true
true to me, true to my dying day he said
I said to him:
I'm sure she's been
I said to him:
I'm sure she's been true to you
August says that Pearly (Rev Baker, the prohibitionist) was correct
(i.e. booze did me in.) The Narrator (not the author) misinterprets
this, assuming Purly is a woman who wronged West, and responds with
what he believes is sympathy, "I'm sure she's been true to you."
What do you think?