Tonight is the first “Fare Thee Well” show in Chicago. As I look forward to joining in the music via webcast here are 10 reasons why I love the Dead. They’re not the first 1o. They’re not the last 10. But they’re 10 nonetheless. Written as if to the band themselves.
1) Lyrics. Thank you for setting poetry to music. For songs that are overflowing with meaning without ever cramming themselves down your throat. For the joy of words and for their ambiguity. For turning a phrase over and over again.
2) Flaws. By never getting everything (anything) absolutely perfect y’all got (almost) everything just right. True love means a full embrace. Flaws make loving the Dead so much more meaningful.
3) Searching for the sound. I feel like y’all kept striving, kept searching, kept pushing the envelope. It’s like you were looking for something eternally elusive. And if you ever found it you probably shurgged, said, “hmm,” and just keep on searching.
4) Great conversation. Chatting about the Dead makes for great conversation. It’s an instant bond. The world would be a much better place if more folks swapped Dead lyrics instead of Bible lyrics. And that’s coming from a rabbi.
5) Organizational psychology. I know that the business side of things wasn’t y’alls strength. And I appreciate that. But y’all offered up a unique model of how an organization might function more like a biological organism. We all miss Jerry, but I agree with others who say he wasn’t the leader. The Dead, like an complex biological organism, didn’t have a leader. Y’all were a complex musical system, a series of unfolding interactions, a living, breathing being.
6) Stories. Y’all told great stories. In your music. But even more than that, y’all gave other people the chance to live and then tell their stories. Y’all allowed an entire folklore of lived experience to rise up like birds.
7) Reinvention. Y’all saved the American songbook by transforming it from what it was to what you wanted it to be. It’s perfect that “Fare Thee Well” is taking place over the 4th of July weekend, because y’all are truly an American phenomenon. There’s nothing more patriotic than listening to the Dead.
8) The music never stopped. And, even more to the point, the music played the band.
9) Levity. Y’all never took yourselves too seriously. Given the overabundance of self importance in the world, that’s much appreciated.
10) Be fruitful and multiply. Y’all fulfilled the most important and dare I say most enjoyable commandment. You raised up a might family and many disciples. That’s a legacy as powerful as the music itself.
I love you more than words can tell!