Dear Mrs. Reagan
Music/Lyrics: Jim Pollock/Rich Kleinman
Vocals: Trey, Page
Historian: Ellis Godard
"Dear Mrs. Reagan" (originally “Memo to Ronnie Reagan”) is quite different from anything else by Phish, particularly at that time. Rich Kleinman wrote the lyrics in 1983; Jim Pollock put music to the lyrics and did two 4-track recordings of the song in spring of 1984. Phish practiced the tune beginning in October ‘84 (just prior to Reagan’s landslide re-election) and recorded it several times starting in November ‘84, but there is no record of it being performed live until 9/27/85.
Contrary to many Phish lyrics, there are no hidden meanings or metaphors in these most political lyrics of Phish’s originals. The song lambastes President Ronald Reagan’s, wife, Nancy for her stance on drugs (remember “Just Say No”?), suggests that she secretly wields power behind the overly-promoted actor, and commands her to “gun your husband down” in order to save the country. She didn't, and the song has not been performed since Reagan’s V.P., George H.W. Bush, was inaugurated in 1989.
Unrelated to Woody Guthrie’s “Dear Mrs. Roosevelt,” the song is said to parody Dylan tunes of the ‘60s, and Trey is said to sound like Dylan on early versions, particularly 4/1/86 and 4/15/86, both of which feature Trey introducing Phish as the “Bob Dylan Band.” The only pattern apparent from the thirteen known live performances is that the song came late in shows, closing three second sets (4/1/86, 8/10/87, and 6/15/88) and second-to-last in two other shows (9/27/85 and 4/24/87). Reagan’s fans and foes alike may want to check out the film Bedtime For Bonzo, a stirring classic that pits Ronnie against the unpredictable wiles of a naughty little chimp.