After 50 years the Grateful Dead, what is left of the Dead, is calling it quits officially. The music will stop at Soldier Field on July 5th. It’s a sad moment for me as there is no other band I have enjoyed as much over the years. Really no band comes close.
One of the main reasons for this is because there is so much material to discover. There are only so many Beatles albums to appreciate. With the Dead, the albums aren’t even the most important part.
The Dead openly allowed fans – deadheads – to record their shows from the audience. This stood in contrast to most music artists at the time. (And even now.) This openness resulted in a fascinating documentation of the band through the decades. For instance I can tell you within a few seconds if a particular song was preformed in the early 70s, late 70s, 80s etc. and I am no where near the connoisseur that some are.
The band gave the music to the audience for a fee and the audience in turn took the product and spread the word. In time the Grateful Dead, a band which never had a number one song, would become the top earning act on tour for years. (Or close to it.) The Dead encouraged sharing. Really it deployed a kind of “freemium” business model – though they probably didn’t do it on purpose. The band was (is) a trailblazer in what would become today’s sharing economy. They were 25 years ahead of the curve.
Jerry and the boys were pioneering capitalists. (Though they might balk at the term – but maybe not.) And it’s one of the reasons, in addition to the music, that the Grateful Dead hold a special place in my heart.
Fare thee well guys.
The Dead, long stereotyped as hippies stuck in the Summer of Love, surely seemed anachronistic by the time it disbanded in 1995 after the death of guitarist and songwriter Jerry Garcia. But the Grateful Dead remains one of the most innovative and tech-savvy bands in pop history. Long before it became necessary (or cool) to do so, the band embraced a DIY ethos in everything from manufacturing its own gear to publishing its own music to fostering a decentralized music distribution system. The Dead’s obsession with technology was almost inseparable from the band’s psychedelic ambition and artistic independence…
…It was Deadheads at the Stanford lab who created the first links in the digital Deadhead network in the early 1970s, soon connecting via ARPANET to their fellow Dead freaks at the M.I.T. Media Lab in Boston, trading setlists and tapes and, in one case, selling pot. It was the first link in a chain that stretches unbroken through the BBS and Usenet eras to modern times. Decades before the site formerly known as Rap Genius, Deadhead librarian David Dodd finished his scholarly annotations of Dead lyrics.