The Grateful Dead 1980. Left to right: Jerry Garcia, Bill Kreutzmann, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh. Not in the photo: Brent Mydland
|Genre (s)||Rock , folk rock , country rock , blues rock , psychedelic rock|
|Jerry Garcia † 1995|
Bass , vocals
|Ron "Pigpen" McKernan † 1973|
|Vince Welnick (from 1990) † 2006|
|Mickey Hart (1967–1971, from 1975)|
|Robert Hunter † 2019|
|John Perry Barlow † 2018|
|Tom Constanten (1968-1970)|
|Keith Godchaux (1971–1979) † 1980|
|Donna Godchaux (1972-1979)|
|Brent Mydland (1979–1990) † 1990|
|Bruce Hornsby (1990-1992)|
Grateful Dead ( English for grateful dead ) was an American rock band from San Francisco founded in 1965 around the front man Jerry Garcia , which played an important role in the American music scene and counterculture .
The Grateful Dead became known as one of the first bands of psychedelic rock and as a jam band with almost 3000 concerts. In addition, the Grateful Dead was one of the first bands that allowed the recording of concerts (but not the trade in the recordings). The focus of their later music was country and folk rock , which they combined with other music genres.
Permanent members of the band were Jerry Garcia , Bob Weir , Phil Lesh and Bill Kreutzmann . The position of keyboardist in particular was volatile and has been occupied by six different musicians in the band's thirty-year history. Even after the death of the band leader García, the band was still active for a few years under the name The Other Ones and later The Dead . The former members are still musically active to varying degrees.
The origins of Grateful Dead lie in the band Zodiac, which Jerry Garcia founded in 1963 together with guitarist Bob Weir , percussion artist and keyboardist Ron "Pigpen" McKernan and drummer Bill Kreutzmann . Two years earlier, García played guitar and banjo at folk and bluegrass festivals, had worked with the band's later songwriter Robert Hunter since 1960 , and during this time got to know the other band members who had also already gained experience with their own projects. For personal reasons and because of serious drug problems, Hunter did not become a member of Zodiac.
Zodiac went on in 1964 in the band Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, but without the drummer Kreutzmann. In addition to the rest of the trio García, Weir and McKernan, other musicians played in the band, of which only David Nelson was able to establish himself in the music scene. But the formation of Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions did not last and was renamed Warlocks in April 1965, in which Kreutzmann played again. In June 1965 bassist Phil Lesh joined and previous bassist Dana Morgan Jr. left the band.
A month later the writer Ken Kesey became aware of the formation and booked them as a house band for the acid tests in a commune whose members were later called Merry Pranksters . These acid tests were happenings in which the then legal drug LSD was distributed. In December 1965, the Warlocks renamed themselves again after Lesh discovered that there was already a commercial band with the name.
According to García, the selection of the new band name, Grateful Dead, was a fluke as there were many other names to choose from. He opened the Encyclopædia Britannica and read the term there. The term "Grateful Dead" appears in different cultures and is used in scriptures such as the Tibetan Book of the Dead or the Book of Tobit .
The band settled in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district , which is still considered a magnet for hippie and counterculture. It was around this time that the band met LSD producer Owsley Stanley , who financed them and became their sound engineer. Thanks to his money, the band was able to move into their own house, buy instruments and perform at or have free concerts, which won them a large fan base in San Francisco . The last member of the band was the second drummer Mickey Hart , whose father Lenny Hart , also formerly a musician, was temporarily manager of the band. During this time, the band members also played with other bands in the studio, including Jefferson Airplane and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young , where García played the pedal steel guitar intro of their hit Teach Your Children . In addition, García, Hart and Lesh belonged to David Nelson and John Dawson to the founders of New Riders Of The Purple Sage , where they were a member until 1970, before they increasingly dedicated themselves to the Grateful Dead and other projects.
As a result of the concerts, MGM became aware of the band and signed them for demo recordings in 1966. However, since the band had no studio experience, the recordings were unsatisfactory and they were released a short time later. But even without a record deal, Grateful Dead continued to play at concerts and festivals until they were signed by Warner Bros. Records in 1966. In 1967 the debut album The Grateful Dead was released , with which the band was not satisfied. At this time, the band created the pseudonym "McGannahan Skyjellyfetti", based on a character in Kenneth Patchen's work Memoirs of a Shy Pornographer , to identify songs they wrote together. Dan Healy joined the band as a further sound engineer. Both Stanley and he left the band and returned several times for various reasons. Both also appeared as producers of albums.
Another highlight of the year was their participation in the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, which made the band even better known. For the next albums, Tom Constanten joined the band in 1968 as the second keyboardist alongside McKernan and as a pianist. By 1969, the band released two more albums, Anthem of the Sun and Aoxomoxoa , the latter being the most expensive Warner Bros. Records album to date with a production cost of 180,000 US dollars. It was also the first album on which Robert Hunter worked as a permanent member.
In October 1968 Weir and Pigpen left the band briefly. They spoke out against rehearsals and often did not show up until García informed them through band manager Rock Scully of their expulsion. The other band members initially played on their own projects such as Mickey and the Heartbeats and Jerry García and Friends , before Weir and after three shows Pigpen joined the band again.
1969 was an extremely successful year. In addition to two albums, the band played at the Woodstock Festival , whereby García was dissatisfied with the several hour performance. The performance began with St. Stephen and was soon interrupted by the band due to alleged monitor problems on stage. The rain during the performance caused rhythm guitarist Bob Weir to be electrocuted from his microphone, an incident that was later included in a comic strip. Since the appearance was deliberately neither seen in the Woodstock film nor heard on the album, for a long time little was known that the Grateful Dead had played in Woodstock at all, especially since Jerry García can be seen in the concert film as a visitor. On the later Woodstock bootleg , however, the complete Grateful Dead appearance can be heard.
A negative highlight of the year was the Rolling Stones' Altamont Free Concert . a. with the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. Since the Stones had already had good experiences with British Hells Angels at a concert in Hyde Park , they decided to hire the New York Hells Angels for a truck full of beer and ice for the concert. Jerry García and dead manager Rock Scully tried in vain to talk them out of this idea. Usually, Grateful Dead had good contacts with the Hells Angels, as Pigpen was friends with one of the mayor. As it turned out, there was a meeting of the various heads of the Angels at the same time, so that the concert was almost only secured by aspirants of the Angels who were trying to distinguish themselves. They proceeded with excessive brutality against visitors and musicians, even one death occurred when visitor Meredith Hunter was stabbed by a fishing rod. The Deads refused to perform that day. According to the version of the involved music journalist Stanley Booth, Rock Scully was at least one of the supporters of the Hells Angels security idea. Musician and promoter Bert Kanegson remembered that the basic idea came from Diggers co-founder Emmett Grogan .
In 1970, the band returned to their folk and bluegrass roots with their albums Workingman's Dead and American Beauty , after the previous albums had been psychedelic rock . Constanten left the band after two years because he saw no future as a piano player in the large number of concerts that were dominated by Pigpen on the keyboard. They were also invited to tour across Canada with other greats in the music business called Festival Express . In January 1970 Jerry García was arrested along with the other members of the band in New Orleans for drug trafficking, but released after a few days. Manager Lenny Hart embezzled about $ 155,000 and disappeared with it. Because of this, his son, drummer Mickey Hart, left the band in 1971 and did not return until 1975.
In the following years the band played about 100 concerts each year and released studio albums regularly. In 1972 the decision was made to go on a major European tour, which was the reason for the most successful live album in Europe '72 . This was also the first major tour and the first album with the married couple Keith and Donna Godchaux , who were supposed to relieve the sick Pigpen. However, he died in the spring of 1973 at the age of 27 . While Pigpen had largely played the keyboard and Hammond organ , Keith Godchaux was a jazz- influenced pianist.
In 1973 they played with The Band and the Allman Brothers Band at the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen , which was attended by 600,000 people, which remained an audience record for many years. A short time later, on the advice of Bob Weir, the second songwriter John Perry Barlow joined and was already a permanent member of the band on the album Wake of the Flood . This became the first album under their own label Grateful Dead Records after the contract with Warner Bros. Records had expired.
After various concerts, shows and the recording of Grateful Dead from the Mars Hotel , the band took a break from October 1974 to the beginning of 1976, where they only gave a few concerts and the individual members worked on solo projects. They ended the break with the album Blues for Allah , on which Hart took part again. At this time the band played more folk rock and rock jazz . With the album Terrapin Station they opened their new record deal with the Arista Records label , which should also publish all other studio albums. In 1978 Grateful Dead had a three-day gig at the Pyramids of Giza , which was released in October 2008 under the name Rocking the Cradle: Egypt 1978 as a double album including DVD.
The Godchaux couple left the band in February 1979 because they saw no future for themselves there; Keith Godchaux died in a car accident in July of the following year 1980. Brent Mydland joined the band as the new keyboardist and, like Pigpen, played the Hammond organ and synthesizer . Thanks to the live TV broadcast of a Rockpalast concert lasting several hours in Essen, this line-up attracted European attention in 1981.
In the 1980s, Grateful Dead grew in popularity and played in ever larger stadiums and halls, although the Deads did not release a single studio album between 1980 and 1987. In 1985 García was caught with drugs in Golden Gate Park. His punishment was, among other things, the performance of a benefit concert. In 1986 he fell into a coma, recovered and at times led a slightly healthier life. In 1987 Grateful Dead recorded the album In the Dark . It became the most commercially successful album alongside the compilation album Skeletons from the Closet: The Best of Grateful Dead , and for the first time in the band's 22-year history, the musicians had a top ten single with Touch of Gray . At that time the band had long played in the biggest stadiums in the USA, which was also the reason for various live albums.
From 1990 to 1992 the pianist Bruce Hornsby was also part of the formation, but he was not considered a permanent member. He replaced longtime keyboardist Brent Mydland, who died in July 1990 after taking a drug cocktail. Hornsby often played as a special guest at various shows, but refused to join the band in order to pursue his solo career. Hornsby was the band's third pianist after Tom Constanten and Keith Godchaux. Instead of Hornsby, Vince Welnick was signed . He was also a member of the band from 1990 to 1992, so that concerts were played with two drummers and two keyboardists. In the days of Mydland, the band recorded their last studio album called Built to Last , so Hornsby and Constanten can only be heard on live albums. In addition to the live albums, the band now also began to process old concert recordings and to publish them as so-called Vault albums or albums from the Dick's Picks series. Dick Latvala , who was the band's official recording archivist from 1985 until his death in 1999 , was largely responsible for this .
Grateful Dead played around 3000 concerts with the official, impromptu and unofficial appearances.
On July 9, 1995, the Deads played their last concert at the Soldier Field historic site in Chicago . It was also Jerry García's last appearance. He died of a heart attack on August 9, 1995 at the age of 53 . After the autumn tour had already been canceled, the band announced their official separation on December 8th.
Since 2003, the surviving band members have been touring again with a slightly different line-up as The Dead . Before that, they toured from 1998 to 2003 under the name The Other Ones with a different line-up. In addition, most of the band members have their own projects, including Phil Lesh & Friends and Bob Weir's Ratdog .
In 1997 the tribute band Dark Star Orchestra was founded, with Grateful Dead members appearing as guest musicians. Dark Star Orchestra has set itself the goal of repeating the live shows in original places, with original equipment and with the original set lists.
On June 2, 2006, Vince Welnick committed suicide , so that Constanten is the band's last remaining official keyboardist.
Revival , anniversary & farewell
Almost exactly 20 years to the day after their "last concert" on July 9, 1995, the remaining band members Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart met under the motto "Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of the Grateful Dead" to 5 anniversary appearances together. Accompanying musicians were Trey Anastasio from Phish on guitar, Jeff Chimenti on keyboards and Bruce Hornsby on piano. With concerts on June 27th and 28th at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California , and on July 3rd, 4th and 5th at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois , the Grateful Dead said goodbye to tens of thousands of fans after 50 years from the concert stage. More than half a million people had tried online to get tickets for the “Fare Thee Well” final. In total, there were more than 360,000 viewers over the three days, generating revenues of $ 52.2 million.
|June 1965 – September 1967|
|September 1967 – November 1968||
|November 1968 – January 1970||
|January 1970 – February 1971||
|February 1971 – October 1971||
|October 1971 – March 1972||
|March 1972 – June 1972||
|June 1972 – October 1974||
|October 1974 – February 1979||
|April 1979 – July 1990||
|September 1990-March 1992|
|May 1992 – August 1995||
Over the course of their 30-year career, the band eclectic mixed styles. Grateful Dead processed influences from bluegrass , jazz (especially John Coltrane ), blues , folk rock , country rock , space music and last but not least psychedelic rock .
Each of the musicians had different musical roots and preferences. While García and Weir came from the folk and bluegrass scene, and García was also enthusiastic about rock 'n' roll , Lesh was interested in art music , for which he also learned violin, new music , jazz and electronic instruments. Due to his father, Pigpen had blues and R'n'B roots and was also interested in gospel , while Kreutzmann had a rock background. Hart was interested in all forms of percussion . The band's live performances are characterized by long improvisations that lead from one song to the other. Songs like Dark Star often reached a length of 30 minutes on stage. The so-called drums and space were a constant part of the shows . With drums it was solos drummers Kreutzmann and hard while having space of the other musicians was called improvisation. These parts were mostly left out of live albums until an album from these parts was put together with Infrared Roses .
While the band's live shows offered excessive improvisations and musically moved between folk, blues and rock, the early psychedelic albums Anthem of the Sun and Aoxomoxoa acoustically reflected the band's drug experiences. The music was assembled in the studio from numerous concert and session recordings with electronic sounds to "bizarre collages, in which sound shocks and horror miniatures often disrupted the flow of the music." The sales of experimental albums were initially very moderate. Profits were only made with the fifth album Live / Dead , before a commercial breakthrough came in the 1970s with Workingman's Dead and American Beauty . Both albums show a departure from psychedelic rock back to folk and country music, which have always remained a root of the band.
After Pipgen's death, the newcomers Keith and Donna Godchaux contributed to a newly changed band sound. The singer Donna Godchaux was the first and only time a woman joined the band. The band stuck to a mix of country, folk and psychedelic rock on the next albums. “Folk rock had now absorbed the gentle, pulsating drive of the Allman and Doobie Brothers .” On the 1975 album Blues for Allah , jazz and art rock sounds were added to the band's sound . In the following years the band oriented itself again towards the tried and tested folk rock and west coast music.
When the Godchaux couple left the band and were replaced by Brent Mydland, the band was enriched by a high harmony voice, and a Hammond B3 organ as well as a synthesizer were added to the sound of the band. The live double album Reckoning , which offered a purely acoustic performance of dead songs and country blues classics, was accompanied by an electric concert as a double album with the Dead Set in 1981 . With the studio rock album In the Dark , the band celebrated their greatest commercial success in 1987. The single Touch of Gray reached a top position in the charts. However, this was surpassed by the '74 album Skeletons from the Closet: The Best of Grateful Dead in 1995 when the best-of compilation went triple platinum.
Despite this success, the critics agree that the band could only reach their potential live.
Through their tours and live shows, the band Grateful Dead is considered a pioneer of the jambands , which also gave more free concerts than any other band and represented the musical and cultural spirit and the counterculture of San Francisco.
Wall of Sound
When the band's sponsor and sound engineer, Owsley "Bear" Stanley first heard the band, he felt none of them could sing, but blamed some of the blame on the poor sound system:
“I could play you tapes of the early Dead that would make you cringe they're so bad. They couldn't sing for shit. Any one of them could sing on his own okay, but they sounded terrible together, and I think part of that was the fact that the technology of on-stage monitors was pitiful. "
For him it was the starting point of the Wall of Sound project . Stanley finally made one as Wall of Sound called PA system together. When the Ampex company developed the first 16-track recorder in 1968 , the band experimented with the possibilities that were now available. In 1969 Owsley turned to Ron Wickersham, who founded Alembic Inc that same year and manufactured electric guitars, basses and microphone systems there. Wickersham was asked to develop a microphone splitter that could record both vocals and instruments without distortion or loss of quality. Not only should any distortion be filtered out, but a monitoring system should also be set up. For this purpose, six individual sound systems were combined, each with its own power supply and its own functions. In addition to Owsley and Wickersham, Dan Healy and Mark Raizene from Grateful Dead and Rick Turner and John Curl from Alembic worked on the project, which was officially started in 1971 under the name Wall of Sound .
For this purpose, 98 transistor -AMPS with 300 Watt music power , and three 350 watt electron tubes - amplifier is used so that the speakers in total with 26,400 watts RMS ran. This performance enabled the sound to be heard in the open air at a distance of 150–200 meters in excellent quality and up to around 400 meters in average quality. Other sound systems were able to achieve this volume with less power consumption, but not with comparable quality. The six different sound systems played vocals, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, keyboard and piano, bass and drums. The bass was quadrofonic , i.e. each string of the bass was reproduced via its own channel and amplifier. The performance of the Wall of Sound included eleven channels, 48 amplifiers and 641 speakers.
The Wall of Sound worked as its own monitoring system and was set up behind the band for this purpose so that the musicians could hear exactly what the audience heard. To avoid the feedback resulting from this setup , Stanley and Alembic designed a special microphone system. They placed two condenser microphones 6 cm apart, which were operated in antiphase . The singers sang into the upper microphone, while the lower one picked up the other noises around the stage. The two signals were mixed, and due to the anti-phase switching, all external noises were canceled, which were picked up to the same extent by both microphones - only the voice was amplified.
The Complete Wall of Sound premiered on March 23, 1973 in a concert at Cow Palace in Daly City , California . The band needed five trucks to transport the entire stage equipment, which weighed 72 tons, which is why the Wall of Sound was dismantled again in 1976 and a more common sound system was used.
Achievements and Awards
While the band is no longer particularly noticed in Europe, their songs are still on radio stations in the USA, where they have sold 17.5 million albums. The band and especially García are also alluded to in the various media. These include the Dilbert comic strips by Scott Adams or sitcoms like Roseanne or The Wild Seventies . The band is also referred to in films as diverse as Spider-Man 2 , Color of Night , Little Miss Sunshine , Fletcher's Visionen , Cocaine Cowboys and Footloose . In addition, the band or individual members have contributed to the soundtracks of films such as Zabriskie Point , Apocalypse Now , The Mask , Masked and Anonymous , The Bride Who Doesn't Dare or The Dreamers from 2003. In addition, the members themselves also stood in front of the camera. These were mostly documentaries like Woodstock - 3 Days of Love & Music , Festival Express or Gimme Shelter , but also cinema and TV films like Petulia or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas .
The music magazine Rolling Stone listed the band at number 57 of the 100 greatest musicians of all time . Moreover, it took the albums Live / Dead , American Beauty , Workingman's Dead and Anthem of the Sun in the list of the 500 greatest albums of all time and dialed Jerry Garcia in the list of 100 best guitarists and with Robert Hunter in the list of 100 best songwriters of all time . According to Rolling Stone , the covers of the albums Aoxomoxoa and “American Beauty” are also among the 100 best. The songs Dark Star and Uncle John's Band penned by García and Hunter were also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with 12 band members .
After the band had initially not considered single releases, they were persuaded by the then director of Warner Bros. Records Joe Smith to do so. However, the singles had only moderate success. It was only with the successful album In the Dark that Touch of Gray achieved the first and only top position in the charts. For the occasion, the song was the first that the band recorded a music video for. The following single Hell In A Bucket reached a top ten placement, as did the release Foolish Heart from the album Built to Last ; however, none of the singles achieved the success of Touch of Gray . So far, the Grateful Dead albums have received 19 gold records , six platinum and four multiple platinum records in the United States.
The members of the Grateful Dead fan base referred to themselves as "Deadheads". The name comes from 1971 and was used in the inlay of the album Grateful Dead . There, Hank Harrison, the father of Courtney Love , who was featured on the album cover of Aoxomoxoa , suggested the following text:
Grateful Dead supported the Deadheads by compiling a newsletter for the resulting feedback.
The fan base was made in batik shirts dressed and hallucinogenic drugs facing hippies , some of which followed their idols on tour through the entire United States to meet the different set lists and stage shows witness. The deadheads in their most extreme form established a cultural phenomenon by aligning their entire lives with the band's tour cycle. Quite a few made their living by selling self-made handicrafts, fan articles and “soft” drugs. In Germany, too, this movement had some supporters who flew to the USA once a year. Once part of the counter culture of the 60s, the deadhead phenomenon survived until at least the mid-1990s, but initially came to an end when Jerry García died in 1995 and the band split up. Today the fans accompany the tours of the follow-up band "The Dead". Meetings of the deadheads continue to take place in Europe, mostly with the participation of cover bands such as Dark Star Orchestra .
Bootlegs on the Internet
None of the band members had a particular affinity for computer and network technology. Nevertheless, the band is part of the development of the internet in several ways. This is mainly due to the deadheads, who often came from engineering courses. The proximity to the development facilities in Silicon Valley also contributed to the use of new technologies. The influential former mailbox system The WELL soon had its own discussion forum, the Grateful Dead Conference. One of the first newsgroups of Usenet was rec.music.gdead.
In contrast to the many modern musicians who pursue bootlegs with all legal means, the Grateful Dead has taken a different path. Like other bands of their time, they allowed fans to record concerts and set up the microphones they needed. After a certain time, it was not the musicians but the stage crew who objected to this, as the countless microphones made their work difficult. For this reason, special areas behind the soundboard were separated off for fans (“taping areas”), where fans could set up their portable systems for recording the concerts. You needed a tapers ticket for this area . These recordings were or will be exchanged between fans; quite a few have also been released on records or CDs. This was allowed as long as no profit was made with it. Despite this approach, Grateful Dead was one of the highest earning bands in the USA for many years.
With the advent of the MP3 format and the first file sharing platforms, digitalization and worldwide distribution of enormous amounts of music was suddenly possible. The Grateful Dead was the first to react with a business policy that expanded their recording-friendly attitude to the Internet and became a model for other bands. As a result, several websites were created that took care of the distribution of the music. For years, the band had been considering selling their own concert recordings (“Vault”) over the Internet. The quarrels were settled with the end of the dot-com bubble . In 2004 the band chose Apple's iTunes Music Service and its own website as the place of publication .
At the end of November 2005, a change in the friendly attitude towards bootleggers seemed to be emerging: Allegedly at the insistence of the remaining band members, the Internet Archive , which had previously offered a large number of Grateful Dead bootlegs for download, took the recordings that were made directly on the mixer were recorded (so-called "Soundboard Recordings" or "Soundboards") completely from the network; Recordings made with external microphones (also known as “audience recordings”) were no longer available for download, but only as a live stream.
After the protest of the fan base, this decision was partially reversed at the beginning of December 2005: In a posting on his website, bassist Phil Lesh stated that he had not known about the decision that had led to the stop of the downloads and that he had the free, Advocate non-commercial distribution of the music by fans. The Internet archive, on the other hand, stated that it was apparently wrong when it believed that its actions were fulfilling the wishes of the band. The Audience Recordings have been available for download again since then; Soundboards, which could previously also be downloaded, will only be offered as streams.
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- Pictures of the construction of the Wall of Sounds .
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- Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Album Covers
- Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Album Covers II
- 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll by Artist (GJ) ( Memento from August 26, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
- Table of the RIAA
- Kembrew McLeod: Courtney Love . ( Memento of July 8, 2012 in the web archive archive.today ) In: St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture
- Robert Hunter et al. a .: Grateful Dead: The Illustrated Trip . DK ADULT, 2003, p. 138.
- Policy - Grateful Dead Sanctions Free MP3 Music Format ( Memento of November 30, 2005 in the Internet Archive )
- Phil Lesh: Posting ( Memento from December 2, 2005 in the Internet Archive )
- Internet Archive Forums: Good News and an Apology: GD on the Internet Archive. Retrieved August 9, 2020 .
- Grateful Dead concert recordings . Internet Archive, November 30, 2005