Gratefully Deadicated: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Grateful Dead.


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Friday (12/4/15) marked the 50 anniversary of the formation of the Grateful Dead. I have been fortunate to interview three out of the four members of the “Core Four” and several former members of the Grateful Dead throughout the years. When you see the name Grateful Dead come up on the caller ID, you trip over yourself to grab the phone. Here are links to my past Dead-related interviews:

On playing with the Dead, “I’d find myself playing, say the right hand being with Jerry, and the right foot with the bass. Each limb being with a different instrument. Maybe doing my own talking with the snare drum, but filling for the other instruments with those other limbs and breaking it up like that. It got so you could really hear the pieces, who is doing what. You would separate it that way.”

Mickey Hart:…/mickey-hart-dancing-with-the…/ (Audio)

Bob Weir:…/the-grateful-deads-bob-weir-…/

On song selection with the Dead, “You know, if Jerry was singing and I was up next. I would have the whole song Jerry was singing to decide what I was going to do next. I’d sort of feel it out while I was playing Jerry’s song. I’d just call out what I was going to do, and we would go into that. Then it was Jerry’s turn.”

Bruce Hornsby (who played keyboards with the Dead in the late ’80s/early ’90s):…/bruce-hornsby-interview/

On learning to play with the Dead, “I considered my self fairly well versed in their music, which meant I knew about 40 Dead songs. I thought that was a lot. They had a revolving list of about 160, that were on their list of songs in active rotation. It meant I had to learn about 120 songs. That was definitely challenging, but they were so loose about it. It was such a loose environment. They hated to rehearse, kind of like I do. I’m the same way. They would just tell me the key and just say, “OK, just wing it.” Some of their music is very simple, and some of it is very complex. “Help On the Way>Slipknot>Franklin’s Tower,” that part in the middle isn’t something you can just wing. You can’t hear that and play it. You have to learn it. You have to spend time wood shedding it. There were several songs like that. Those would often be the most enjoyable songs to play, once you learned how to play them. There’s a little more meat on the instrumental bones. It was really fun, but they were a lot to learn. I could have probably done a better job of doing my homework. I did what I did. I can’t say I did my best. I probably could have been a little more studious in my wood shedding of the songs. I tended to just use my ears. Frankly, I would just lay out a lot when I didn’t know something. Often, the best thing to play is nothing. There’s a lot of players up there. Often, I would just sit there. People would think, “Why is Bruce not playing? He must be bummed out or something.” It couldn’t have been further from the truth. I was just trying to leave some space. Also, a lot of times, I wouldn’t be playing because I didn’t know what the hell they were doing. I didn’t know it, so why be up there sucking? All in the name of looking like I’m into it and playing. I would just stop.”

Tom Constanten (Grateful Dead keyboardist from 1968-1970);…/qa-with-tom-constanten-forme…/

On touring with the Dead, “The usual vicissitudes of travel. The music is the easy part, I’ve often said. Some people get stage fright. Not me. I get stage calm. After the day’s hassles with flight connections, hotel reservations, and all, it’s when I’m finally seated in front of the keyboard that I feel most in control.”

The Grateful Dead helped change the face of modern music. Happy 50th! What a long, strange trip it’s been.

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