One recurring item of discussion you see me engaging in is the music of the Grateful Dead. I think anyone who has been around a bit knows the Grateful Dead are not on the top of too many people’s playlists. I can only think of few people outside the circle of my family and close friends who seek out Deadly music.
There are a number of reasons I have come to like the Grateful Dead and for some of you reading this I have to tell you to seal your assumptions in the silver mine!
The Grateful Dead played a wide variety of music. Their music is taken from all the widely listened to genres of music. Blues, rock-n-roll, bluegrass, traditional country and western, Jazz, new-age, etc. It was incredible.
They pay tribute not only to the artists we all know and love (Dylan, Hendrix, the Stones, etc) but to the relatively unknown artists who have come before. A wonderful example is their covering of Gus Cannon tunes. The bluegrass tunes they cover are often times older than our nation!
The other day on our way to work, one of my carpool mates noted the people at the concert that was on the radio (XM/Sirius This Day in Grateful Dead History) were being treated to once in the universe event. That is, the ‘Dead were jamming and making it up as they went along.
This in fact, was what turned me onto the Grateful Dead. I had a mild interest in the band back in 1986 and I got a hold of a bootleg. The tape was the start of the second set of 7/13/1984 at Berkely’s Greek Theater and they started off playing Scarlet Begonias and then segued into Touch of Grey (this was just before In the Dark came out). That segue knocked my socks off and I have yet to hear one like that.
Yeah, sometimes those can be a gigantic flop, the guys were out of synch that day or whatever, but when it works it is aural magic!
Grateful Dead original tunes often have interesting lyrics and themes, and most often refrain from divisive politics. As the season transitions from summer to fall the Weather Report Suite Part I has very meaningful lyrics that strike to core: Summer’s Fade Roses Die…we’ll see summer come again. There is music for every season and this is both true in a literal and non-literal sense.
The Grateful Dead’s approach to taping concerts and trading their music is wonderful. As is noted above, they worked to make every concert a unique event so not only did they tape it with the pro-gear they allowed their fans to bring in recording equipment and started to set aside special sections for the tapers and would sometimes allow tapers to feed from the soundboards. Those tapers were okay as long as the tape distribution arising from the taping was non-profit. Back in the days of tapes, the rule was no more charge than to cover the cost of the tape (however, trades were cost-free).
This openness led to the creation of the Electronic Freedom Foundation — founded by one of the ‘Dead’s lyricists John Perry Barlow. While I am not 100% in agreement with the EFF their work has revolutionized computing and spawned the open source and Linux movement.
Check it Out!
All of this combined can be checked out first hand at: http://WWW.GDRADIO.NET