I had enjoyed the music of the Grateful Dead for a couple years before I truly “got on the bus,” as they say. The moment when it all came together was as stark and clear as a light turning on. I was sitting in a camping chair at a music festival, watching Furthur play Eyes of the World. They’d been playing for close to two hours at that point, and I’d enjoyed it all, but it was at that moment that the cosmos realigned and the picture came into focus. Two women were dancing in wide, spinning circles next to me. They had flower wreaths in their hair and cans of Bud Light in hand. In front of me, a man had his toddler-aged son up on his shoulders, they too spun around and around and the band was singing, “Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world/The heart has its beaches, its homeland and thoughts of its own./ Wake now discover that you are the song that the morning brings/The heart has its seasons, its evenings and songs of its own.” There were fireworks over the Long Island Sound, a giant tree with wide, umbrella-like branches, and the stars were bright in a purpleish sky. In that moment I realized I’d never known anything so beautiful.
A very wise man once said to me, and please forgive me for paraphrasing, “Lovers should never talk about love, because they’ll sound deranged to everybody else. That’s kind of how I feel about talking about The Grateful Dead.” And he’s absolutely right. Most of you will read the paragraph above and roll your eyes, switch to a different post, or find a different blog to read altogether. But any self-described Deadhead will read the same thing and say, “Yes. Exactly. Hello.” Because at some point they experienced the same thing in 1973, or ’66, or ’82.
This isn’t just a random post about how much I love the Dead even though nobody cares. It’s a call to arms! And an announcement about my new project. I’m making good on a longheld dream of mine: a Grateful Dead Oral History Project. I’m sitting interviews with anybody who wants to share their thoughts and experiences. There are so many incredible stories out there, and they really deserve to be recorded for posterity. It’s just me with a little recorder at the moment, but I’m hoping that if enough people get involved it can turn into a much larger project on the order of Studs Terkel or Max Brooks (hey, if you’re going to dream, dream big).
I know my typical readership is likely not made up of many heads, but here’s what I’m counting on: We Are Everywhere. Especially in unlikely places. I also know that everyone has a friend of a friend, a crazy buddy of their dad’s, a kooky high school history teacher that went to shows, drove a VW bus, wore tie-dye, drank the Kool-Aid, made oblique references to china cats, scarlet fires and dark stars. Please pass this information along to those people! Anyone interested can read a little more about the project here, or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All images courtesy of Grateful Dead Productions (I assume), originally found here.