Grateful Dead
Grateful Dead

Grateful Dead

About Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead expanded rock’s horizons with long jams and fierce improvisation, but they also turned their communal aesthetic into a way of life. The band—Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Ron McKernan, Phil Lesh, and Bill Kreutzmann—emerged from the same psychedelic San Francisco milieu that birthed Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape, and the group’s shared house near the corner of Haight and Ashbury during 1967’s Summer of Love became a focal point for the scene. But the Dead would acquire a devoted cult all their own, one that transcended both the geography and the era. Indeed, the group’s relationship to that fanbase—their faithful were officially known as Deadheads by the early ’70s—is arguably their most significant legacy, fostering innovations like open tape-trading and the use of the internet to share information. From the beginning, they were renowned for their thick stew of influences—rock, jazz, bluegrass, country, experimental composition—and skill at in-the-moment creation. A gritty Merle Haggard cover might be followed by a dark and spacey interlude that would stretch on for half an hour. Their live prowess put them on the map first (1969’s Live/Dead was an instant classic), but the Dead revealed themselves as songwriters of the first order in their second decade. A pair of albums in 1970, Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty, focused on acoustic guitars and rustic Americana, and Europe ’72 beautifully extended those songwriting ideas into an expansive live setting. As the ’70s wore on, the Dead’s music grew jazzier and lighter, with albums like 1975’s Blues for Allah touching on the sound of jazz fusion; later in the decade, they’d experiment with progressive rock (1977’s Terrapin Station) and even disco (1978’s Shakedown Street). No matter their studio output, the Dead never lost their live alchemy, and shows as late as 1989 (which newcomers can sample on Without a Net) are highly regarded by Deadheads. Singer and lead guitarist Garcia’s death in 1995 brought a close to the initial iteration of the band, but the Dead’s seemingly bottomless vault of live music (and various post-Garcia offshoots) lives on.

  • HOMETOWN
    San Francisco, CA
  • BORN
    1965
  • GENRE