Goodbye Grateful Dead, Again

Written by on July 4, 2015

The Grateful Dead says its final goodbye July 5-6 in ChicagoThis weekend, the Grateful Dead is slated to perform its final shows under that name at Chicago’s Soldier Field, the site of its last performances before Jerry Garcia died in 1995.

I’ve been a loyal Deadhead since college, and while I’ve happily immersed myself in various permutations of the re-done Dead in the intervening years (Furthur, The Other Ones, The Dead), along with surviving members’ solo projects and other jambands too numerous to count, I said “fare thee well” to the Grateful Dead my family knew and loved when Jerry made his tragic exit. But did they go on truckin’ in my heart? Oh, yes.

When news came of the July 3-5 Chicago shows, many devotees reacted with anger: ticket prices (average cost: $600) are too high, there should be a tour to allow ‘Heads across the country a chance to see the boys, Trey Anastasio filling in for Jerry is outrageous, etc. That all may or may not be true, but for me, any opportunity to revisit the good old Grateful Dead is reason to celebrate. I hope to take part through the YouTube pay per view, but even if not, I am twirling in a hippie dress, cranking up tapes of memorable Dead shows, and remembering what was with thanks and joy.

The Grateful Dead kicked off half a century ago. Fifty years! An admitted romantic, I equate its music and counterculture spirit with the ethos of kindness, compassion, generosity, adventurism, love, and joy. Much of the world seems to have forgotten those ideals, but these ostensibly final shows provides an opportunity to muse on them and bring them back to life. Even without the band, the music never stops, why should our values? Let’s be brave and open our minds to new experiences and points of view. Let’s be good to one another, even in the face of disagreement; there still “ain’t no time to hate.” Take time to dance and shake yer bones on occasion. There is room for a miracle every day. And everyone, everyone should be welcome on the bus.

Let’s enjoy this weekend, even if we aren’t there physically, and remember all the good times enjoyed with and because of the Grateful Dead. Let’s send out beams of love and gratitude to the survivors, to Jerry and Pigpen and Keith and Vince, to all the hearts that we touched and that touched ours over the Dead decades. And let’s be kind.

Update: My friends at WPLN 90.3 FM, Nashville Public Radio, are getting on on the Deadaliciousness. Its Saturday night offering, the music show “American Routes”‘ will feature the music of Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead tonight at 9:00 Central Time.

Another Update: The Franklin Theater in Franklin, about a half hour’s drive from Nashville, presents a live simulcast of tonight’s July 4 show at Soldier Field. Tickets are $12 and still available as I type this at 4:37pm. Doors open at 6pm and the show starts at 7pm.  If I didn’t have a broken headlight, I would go!

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