In an article for MSNBC.com on the Ten Best Bands in rock history, I picked the Grateful Dead as number four:
- The Grateful Dead
Out on the road today/I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac/A little voice inside my head/Said ‘don’t look back, you can never look back.’
(Don Henley, “Boys of Summer”)
When Henley wrote “The Boys of Summer’ in 1984, he saw the sticker on luxurious Detroit steel as a contradiction of values: a symbolic matter/antimatter collision that obliterated the meaning of both. But Henley didn’t realize that his symbol of a Dead past was in reality a very powerful symbol of the present and future.
The Vietnam War was the perfect polarizer between youth and adult culture: it had no clear objective, it was far away, it cost many lives, and it was involuntary – the old made the decisions, the young died. After the war was finally mercy killed in the mid-’70s, the nation came to realize that it had hated the internal confusion more than it had hated the external enemy – blood is thicker than ideology.
As a result, both sides of the internal conflict embraced the perceived highlights of the other’s culture: adults lightened up — Johnny Carson grew his hair long and joked with the band about smoking pot — and the youth embraced the acquisitive materialism of their parents with the shamelessness of Midas.
The Dead became THE symbol of this blending of ideologies until Jerry Garcia’s death in ’95: a well-oiled money making machine ($50 million a year in concert revenue) that sold peace, love and understanding to a legion of internally divided admirers. The Dead sold out every show because a Dead show was a socially acceptable place to temporarily take a break from the rat race and try on ’60s hippie values without having to live them. People who didn’t do drugs any other time indulged and danced around like pixies to the Dead and their light, rhythmic, pleasant, sometimes inspired, extended musical journeys.
On that musical front, Rhino’s “Very Best of the Grateful Dead” is an excellent representation of the band’s eclectic blending of country, folk, psychedelic rock, R&B, jazz and Afro-Caribbean rhythms on classics like “Friend of the Devil,” “Sugar Magnolia,” “Ripple,” “Truckin’,” “Uncle John’s Band,” “Casey Jones,” “Franklin’s Tower,” and their lone hit single “Touch of Grey.”
“Grateful Dead” (’71) is my favorite live set by the band – it rolls along with “Bertha,” “Mama Tried,” “Playing in the Band,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “Not Fade Away” and “Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad,” showing great energy and versatility.
The Dead’s success inspired the entire jam band movement, which carries on its musical and cultural lineage to this day.
As does “The Dead” – they have just announced a summer tour:
- Approaching nearly four decades of touring America, The Dead will hit the road this summer to continue what they are best known for – playing live. Since the band’s inception, The Grateful Dead have had a long-standing tradition of appearing at the year’s biggest rock festivals such as Woodstock, Monterey Pop Festival and Watkins Glen, and this year is no exception. On June 12, The Dead will kick off their three-month U.S. “Wave That Flag” Tour by headlining the second night of the 2004 Bonnaroo Music Festival, a three-day music and camping festival recently hailed by Rolling Stone magazine as “The American rock festival to end all festivals.”
The “Wave That Flag” tour will make stops at 28-cities before concluding on August 19 at Atlanta’s Hi-FiBuys Amphitheatre. Highlights include five-nights at Denver’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre, a performance with the Allman Brothers Band at Washington’s Gorge Amphitheatre and multiple dates in Boston, New Jersey and New York (complete schedule below).
The Dead are comprised of Grateful Dead members Mickey Hart (percussion, drums, vocals), Bill Kreutzmann (drums), Phil Lesh (bass, vocals) and Bob Weir (guitar, vocals), along with keyboardist Jeff Chimenti and guitarists Jimmy Herring and new member, Warren Haynes. Although the band toured last summer, this will be The Dead’s most extensive string of dates since the founding members reunited in 2002.
Widely considered one of the most popular groups in rock history, the Grateful Dead formed in the San Francisco area in 1965. 2004 marks the band’s 39th Anniversary.
Newest addition to The Dead, guitarist and vocalist Warren Haynes, will join the band on all dates. Also member of the Allman Brothers Band, Phil Lesh & Friends, Gov’t Mule and an accomplished solo artist, Haynes will open half the tour with solo acoustic sets. Longtime Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter will open the remaining dates with solo acoustic performances.
Tickets for The Dead’s “Wave That Flag” Summer Tour 2004 will go on sale via Ticketmaster on Saturday, April 17. Early tickets are currently available through Grateful Dead Ticketing; visit www.dead.net or call 1-800-CAL-DEAD for more information.
“WAVE THAT FLAG” SUMMER TOUR 2004 DATES
12 – Manchester – TN – Bonnaroo Music Festival
15 – Denver CO – Red Rocks Amphitheater – WH
16 – Denver CO – Red Rocks Amphitheater – WH
18 – Denver CO – Red Rocks Amphitheater – RH
19 – Denver CO – Red Rocks Amphitheater – RH
20 – Denver CO – Red Rocks Amphitheater – RH
22 – Phoenix AZ – Cricket Pavilion – WH
23 – San Diego CA – Coors Amphitheater – WH
24 – Irvine CA – Verizon Wireless Amphitheater – WH
26 – Mountain View CA – Shoreline Amphitheater – RH
27 – Sacramento CA – Sleep Train Amphitheater – RH
29 – Salt Lake City UT – USANA Amphitheater – RH
1 – Boise ID – Idaho Center Amphitheater – RH
2 – Portland OR – Columbia Meadows – RH
3 – George WA – The Gorge (w/ The Allman Brothers Band) – RH
23 – St. Louis MO – UMB Bank Amphitheater – WH
24 – East Troy WI – Alpine Valley Music Theater – WH
25 – Indianapolis IN – Verizon Wireless Amphitheater – WH
27 – Detroit MI – DTE Energy Music Theater – WH
28 – Cleveland OH – Blossom Music Center – WH
30 – Boston MA – Tweeter Center – WH
31 – Boston MA – Tweeter Center – WH
1 – Saratoga Springs NY – SPAC
3 – Hartford CT – The Meadows – WH
4 – Scranton PA – Ford Pavilion @ Montage Mtn. – WH
6 – Darien Lakes – NY Darien Lakes PAC – WH
7 – Camden NJ – Tweeter Waterfront – RH
8 – Camden NJ – Tweeter Waterfront – RH
10 – Holmdel NJ – PNC Bank Arts Center – RH
11 – Holmdel NJ – PNC Bank Arts Center – RH
13 – Wantagh NY – Jones Beach Amphitheater – WH
14 – Wantagh NY – Jones Beach Amphitheater – WH
15 – Bristow VA – Nissan Pavilion – WH
17 – Raleigh NC – Alltel Pavilion – WH
18 – Charlotte NC – Verizon Wireless Amphitheater – WH
19 – Atlanta GA – HiFI Buys Amphitheater – WH
Solo Acoustic Opening Acts: RH= Robert Hunter WH= Warren Haynes