Over the Fourth of July weekend, the Grateful Dead performed a farewell series of shows at Chicago’s Soldier Field, celebrating 50 years as a band.
Reading about these final sets brought me back to the 1970s, when I attended a New Hampshire summer camp as a boy.
During those summers, I’d noticed that my counselors were steeped in the culture of the band. It wasn’t just endless discussions of shows, songs, versions of songs and surprising set lists (Would they ever play Dark Star? Would Phil ever sing again?); it was also a dedication to the ethos of understated generosity, environmental stewardship and a nonjudgmental attitude to other people’s lifestyles.
That was the spirit of the band and their fans, known as Deadheads.
Even then, the band was an outlier in a music industry that has always enjoyed a fair dose of control over artists, imaging, marketing and ticket sales. And the almost stereotypical image of the money-grubbing music executive of the midcentury rock-and-roll era (exemplified by Tom Hanks’ character in the 1996 film That Thing You Do) seems, in retrospect, quite accurate.… Read the rest