Tonight, I am sitting here at my computer – listening to the Deadpod, which is a Grateful Dead podcast. “The Professor” plays various bootleg concerts from the thirty year history of the Grateful Dead (1965-1995) and the particular episode I am listening to is the middle set for a 1973 concert. At the heyday of the Grateful Dead, I was far too young to be into their music. In fact, I was listening to the early aspects of disco music, coupled with the anti-disco thematics of the punk movement. I did not get into the Grateful Dead with any level of interest until I was in my late twenties. Just in time for the untimely death of Jerry Garcia.
I still remember that day. It was an early August day in 1995 – I was working as a Tape Librarian for the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank. The word on the radio came down that Jerry had passed away. When I filtered down to my car after my day of work, I drove to a gathering in Lee Park that I had heard about on the radio. I spent the large part of that evening sitting around with other Grateful Dead fans. There was talk about the shows that some had been too, along with the mystical and spiritual aspect of jams such as “Drums” and “Space” had on some of us. We all mourned Jerry’s passing together. There were a massive amount of candles that had been lit. Some local company brought a truckload of bottled water and passed bottles out to the fans that were there. Folks brought musical instruments. We sang, talked, and cried into the night. For many of us, we had thought it was the end of our shared “long, strange trip”.
Last year, I had heard rumors about the Grateful Dead’s remaining four-core members coming back together as the Grateful Dead for a handful of shows. It was the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the band. For some folks, myself among them, I felt that this would be the chapter where Jerry’s ghost would finally be laid to rest. I so wanted to go. However, I knew the tickets would sell fast, and that scalping would be way beyond my meager means. But I knew I would be there in spirit at least.
On the last night of the show, about an hour before the end of it, I realized that each of the concerts were being simulcast into local movie theaters, as well as online. I was completely shattered. I could have been there for the experience, and I had missed it. Until I found out that the entire set of concerts were going to be sold on DVD. I will be purchasing the set in the very near future on pre-order.
Now, I can understand when people read this and wonder how I could feel this way about a band – particularly a band of aging, doping hippies. Well, remove the doping part from that equation – and you have me. An aging hippy – born in the wrong generation. I grok what the hippy vibe is all about — equality, freedom, exploration, sharing…and to be completely honest, I believe that the world needs a lot more hippy within it. Sure, hippies are pretty grungy at times, they don’t really follow too much of the “polite” society rules…but there’s more to them than that.
Look beyond the jeans, the long hair, the beards, the aspects of free love that don’t quite fit into today’s society — you will find people who see past pigmentation, hair color, eye color, height, weight, sexual orientation, gender…they see people that should be treated equally. They see folks that need to be handed half the sandwich they are eating – because the other person is hungry. They see people that they can disagree with, without having to turn it into something more than that. Yeah, I’m idealizing some of this, and romanticizing other parts of it…but honestly, what’s wrong with that?
Watching the Grateful Dead put their band to rest, one last time, does bring a particular chapter of my life to a close. But its not like these guys are going to stop making music…they will continue to do so, in their own bands. And in their own way, they are striking out on their own trails, seeking their own discoveries…and that’s just what the music of the Grateful Dead is about — exploring for yourself, expanding your boundaries…even erasing those boundaries. And once we remove those boundaries…those things that make us all pre-packaged because of some aspect of our genetic makeup…then, we start to move forward on equal footing.
Say what you will…I sincerely believe there is nothing wrong with the hippy philosophy. I only wish the rest of the world could hurry up and catch on too…