At college at New Paltz (about halfway between Albany and NYC) in the early 1970, I ran into the creature known as the Deadhead for the first time. The Deadhead was not unlike someone who had been “born again” after a lifetime of degradation. The Deadhead wanted to share The Experience with EVERYBODY, even if you didn’t share his or her enthusiasm. I mean, I was a fan of the Beatles, but I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head the set list for the Hollywood Bowl or Shea Stadium concerts. The Deadhead was an obsessed creature who could tell how a given song segued into another song, at what point, and when it segued back to the original theme, and how THAT was different than what they did two nights earlier. Omigod.
So, I developed a great antipathy for the Grateful Dead, not so much for their music, which I avoided, as much as towards their fans. Even the albums I heard for which I had some grudging admiration – such as American Beauty and Workman’s Dead – didn’t change my overall irritation with the group, or rather the group’s persona, epitomized by their zealous fans.
10 years to the day after Jerome (named after Jerome Kern) Garcia’s death, and in the month that he would have turned 63, I feel quite differently. I have a much greater appreciation for the band’s musicianship, influence, and its sense of history in referencing pioneering artists that came before them. In particular, I really appreciated the writing of Jerry Garcia (usually with Robert Hunter) and his musical technique (including his work with Dave Grusin).
Jerry Garcia– he’s more than the inspiration for an ice cream flavor.