Robert Hunter, who penned the lyrics to the majority of the Grateful Dead's songs, died last night at age 78. Hunter first met Jerry Garcia in 1961 and went on to write the words to such classics as Ripple, Dark Star, To Lay Me Down, Fire on the Mountain, Truckin', Touch of Grey, and nearly every other great Dead song. After Garcia's death, Hunter collaborated with Elvis Costello, Bruce Hornsby, and Bob Dylan. From Rolling Stone:
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While Hunter and Garcia played in a few bluegrass bands together, the former passed on an offer to join Garcia’s pre-Grateful Dead jug band to focus instead on writing. At Stanford, Hunter took part in an early LSD experiment (“I had a romping good time,” he recalled) and dabbled in Scientology, but eventually he began to struggle with speed and meth, prompting him to leave the Bay Area for New Mexico. There, Hunter began writing more songs — including future Dead classics “St. Stephen,” “China Cat Sunflower” and “Alligator — which he sent to Garcia, who encouraged him to return to San Francisco and join the Dead as their lyricist.
Back in the Bay Area, Hunter would join the band at rehearsals and write lyrics. During one session, Hunter began writing lyrics to accompany an instrumental the band was working on; the result, “Dark Star,” was both a landmark for the band and also the official start of Hunter’s new role as the lyricist in residence.
Hunter was even aware of the song’s significance at the time.
I came to the Grateful Dead late by some standards, and left its orbit early by most. My first album was the band’s third, “Aoxomoxoa,” which I purchased shortly after its release in 1969, and I didn’t experience the Dead live until 1970. From then until 1973, I saw them a lot, mostly at Winterland in San Francisco, but by 1974, with a few memorable exceptions, I was pretty much done.
My blind spot then, is the bulk of the band’s 30-year career, which also happens to be the years when the Grateful Dead was at its most famous and popular, becoming one of the highest-grossing arena and stadium acts of its day. That’s probably why Alive With the Dead: A Fly on the Wall With a Camera, by photographer Susana Millman, seems like such a revelation to a fallen Dead Head like me. Oh sure, Millman gives us plenty of shots of the hoopla surrounding the 1987 release of “In the Dark,” which went double platinum, but her photographs also offer intimate peeks inside a scene I’d always dismissed as being too big for its own good.
And in many ways, it certainly was, as Millman’s photos of the tie-dye-clad crowds filling enormous venues like Soldier Field in Chicago might have argued in the hands of a different author and photographer. Soldier Field, of course, is where the Dead performed its last show on July 9, 1995 — lead guitarist Jerry Garcia would die one month later. But instead of using the pages of her book to caution readers against simultaneous addictions to heroin, cigarettes, and Ben & Jerry’s, Millman gives us a glorious double-printed, double-exposed photograph of the band on stage at its last gig, dwarfed by the adoration of its fans, stage lights, and fireworks. Read the rest
The title track from the Grateful Dead's November 15, 1978 release Shakedown Street is one my favorites. Read the rest
Stunning! The National's cover of "Morning Dew," a song penned in 1961 by Bonnie Dobson and later popularized by the Dead, is one of 59 (!) tracks on the Day of the Dead box set they helped produce, featuring Sharon Van Etten, the Flaming Lips, Real Estate, War on Drugs, Jenny Lewis, and many more covering Dead songs. Day of the Dead will be out May 20, with all profits benefiting the HIV/AIDS organization Red Hot.
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For several years, The National's Bryce and Aaron Dessner have been collecting musical tributes to the Grateful Dead by a variety of their fave artists, from Sharon Van Etten to the Flaming Lips to Real Estate. Finally, the long-anticipated set, Day of the Dead, will be out May 20. Read the rest
Today Phil Lesh celebrates his 76th birthday! Happy birthday! Read the rest
Wednesday, October 21, in San Francisco, the Internet Archive will honor the Grateful Dead at what archive.org calls their biggest celebration of the year.
It seems the awesome approach to business taken by the Dead for so many years has caught their eye.
Tickets are free, you just need to sign up. Here are the event details:
Building Libraries Together
Celebrating the Passionate People Building the Internet Archive
Wednesday, October 21
at the Internet Archive
300 Funston Avenue, San Francisco
6 p.m. Reception & Hands-on Demo Stations
7 p.m. Program begins
Come honor our partners–the hackers and historians making amazing things with the Internet Archive’s collections.
And we’ll present the first Internet Archive Hero Award to the Grateful Dead–Pioneers in Sharing.
Come try these Hands-on Demos:
SCAN a book with our next generation Scribe
LISTEN to a vintage recording
EXPLORE political TV ads and funny films
PLAY a 3-D video game with the Oculus Rift
VIEW Grateful Dead memorabilia
ENJOY free food, drink and music!
Get your free ticket here.
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When famed 1960s LSD cook and live soundman Owsley "Bear" Stanley died in 2011, he left behind 1,000 reels of high-quality concert recordings of The Grateful Dead, Johnny Cash, Miles Davis, Fleetwood Mac, Janis Joplin, and many more. The Owsley Stanley Foundation has launched an Indiegogo campaign to save those deteriorating tapes. Read the rest
In 1994, "plunderphonics" pioneer John Oswald released "Grayfolded," a nearly two-hour composition made from more than 100 recordings of the Grateful Dead's live performances of their song "Dark Star" from between 1968 and 1993. Next month, Important Records is reissuing Grayfolded on a triple gatefold vinyl with new liner notes containing interviews with the Dead and a map of all the recording's source material. Above, a trailer for the release.
Here's what Oswald said about Grayfolded in 1995: Read the rest
PBS Digital Studios’ Blank on Blank web series is a great idea - they animate old audio interviews with notable people. Here's one with the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia on the "Acid Tests" - concerts where LSD was handed out to attendees.
We’d set up the equipment, everybody got high, and stuff would happen,” Jerry Garcia tells veteran record executive Joe Smith in an interview from 1988. November 27 marks the anniversary of the The Grateful Dead’s first-ever performance at the infamous Acid Test parties in Santa Cruz, when they still went by the name The Warlocks. The music legend talks about the Acid Tests and explains: “That was the most important six months as far as directionality [for the band].”
(My favorite Blank on Blank is with Farrah Fawcett)
Jerry Garcia on The Acid Tests - PBS Blank on Blank series Read the rest
The above 1966 Acid Test Diploma of Merry Prankster and Jerry Garcia's former wife Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Garcia is up for auction as part of The HeART of Rock and Roll Poster Auction. Current bid is $5,775. Over at Collectors Weekly, our pal Ben Marks puts this tattered piece of paper in context as a souvenir of a milestone event in psychedelic, counterculture , and multimedia history. "The High Price of a Degree in LSD" Read the rest
UC Santa Cruz launched the Grateful Dead Archive Online last Friday with tens of thousands of items. But it wouldn't be a Grateful Dead archive if all you could do was look at stuff, so you can also:
• Add your own photos and stories - you can even tell us a story over voicemail.
• Use the map to search for things related to a particular Dead show and venue - like photos, backstage passes, and envelopes that fans sent in to request tickets, and tapes from performances hosted at archive.org.
• Read Dick Latvala's original notebook from 1978 describing and commenting on fan tapes
• See Jerry and Bob with a tiger - and send us a comment if you can identify the two other folks in the photo! Our team has done a lot of work to get as many names on these things as possible, but did I mention the "tens of thousands of items" thing? It's a big job, and we appreciate your patience as we work to get comments posted and metadata updated.
We've logged visits from 97 countries so far (Hello there in Moldova, Montenegro, and Malaysia!), and as of yesterday the average visit lasted four minutes and twenty seconds, which we can't help but interpret as a good omen. The messages we're getting from the community have been full of warmth and love - of course! - and we're pleased as punch to be able to open up this collection to such a great (grateful?) bunch of fans, scholars, and researchers. Read the rest
Bronies, gathered this weekend at BronyCon, are apparently getting a bad rap in the media: "Outside the convention center, young men danced and sang along with songs from My Little Pony cartoon that blasted from loud speakers as a video screen on a large truck showed the show's characters. One observer said it almost felt like a Grateful Dead concert." [AP] Read the rest