Friday, January 9, 2009

A Tribute to The Grateful Dead

Photo taken by GlowStick Judy!Image via Wikipedia

What's So Great About the Grateful Dead? by Brittany Brockner

In 1964, when British Invasion bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones dominated American musical tastes, a little known San Francisco band was about to start another, entirely different, musical revolution. This band consisted of guitarists Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, organist Ron McKernan, bassist Phil Lesh and drummer Bill Kreutzmann. They called themselves "The Grateful Dead."

Today the Grateful Dead are synonymous with musical greatness. After all, they ranked number 55 on Rolling Stone's list of 100 Greatest Bands of All Time and they received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. But what is it that makes the Grateful Dead so great? For many, the answer to this question lies in the uniqueness of the band's sound and the fan culture that evolved from it.

The Grateful Dead's unique sound arose in part from the different background of each member. For example, Jerry Garcia had a love for bluegrass and the banjo, bassist Phil Lesh was a classically trained trumpet player with a music theory background, drummer Mickey Hart had an interest in eclectic drumming styles, and drummer Bill Kreutzmann had a jazz background. These interests, coupled with the band's decision to use electric guitars after seeing a performance by the Lovin' Spoonful, created the genre bending sound that has been a signature of the Grateful Dead. In any given Grateful Dead album or song, one might hear a fusion of blues, jazz, folk, bluegrass, gospel, rock and other genres.

Apart from their musical style, the Grateful Dead's live performances were another factor that elevated them to the status of greatness. The Grateful Dead were known for touring frequently and they performed thousands of concerts throughout their career. What was special about these concerts was that each one was different. Unlike most bands, the Grateful Dead did not play a specific set each night, preferring instead to perform whatever songs they felt like performing at the time. The band also featured a lot of improvisation at their concerts, and as a result became the first "jam band," a term that refers to bands that improvise and mix musical styles.

Because each Grateful Dead concert was different, some fans wanted to see as many as they could and became so dedicated that they followed the band from concert to concert, often supporting themselves by selling t-shirts, food and other memorabilia at the concerts. These loyal fans became known as "Deadheads." Although these Deadheads were loyal, it could be said that the Grateful Dead were just as loyal to them in return. In fact, in the beginning of their career, the Grateful Dead even provided free food and lodging to attendees at their Haight-Ashbury area concerts. Additionally, throughout their career they allowed fans to tape their concerts in designated taping areas. Fans were even allowed to share their recordings with each other, provided they did not attempt to make a profit from them.

The Grateful Dead enjoyed a lengthy career, from 1964 until 1995 when they formally disbanded after Jerry Garcia's death from a heart attack. Since then, remaining members of the Grateful Dead have embarked on solo projects including Phil Lesh's band, Phil Lesh and Friends, and Bob Weir's band, RatDog. In 2002, remaining members Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bruce Hornsby briefly toured as "The Other Ones" until they changed their name to "The Dead" in 2003. In 2008, The Dead performed a few shows in support of Barack Obama's presidential campaign. These shows spurred rumors that the Dead might tour in 2009. These rumors turned out to be true as the band announced tour dates for a tour that starts on April 12, 2009 in Greensboro, North Carolina. The Dead's lineup for the 2009 tour includes Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart, Warren Hayes and Jeff Chimenti.

You can purchase Dead tickets for these shows through a liscensed ticket broker, a venue's box office, or Ticketmaster.

Brittany Brockner

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1 comment:


    Grennsboro April 12 th !!!