This has been bothering me ever since I watched President Obama honor Led Zeppelin at Kennedy Center. I really like Led Zeppelin and have great respect for their influence in rock and roll. They were truly a great band, from England. The Grateful Dead are THE American band and I believe they should be honored for their long and illustrious career at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. by the President of the United States of America.
Please follow me down below the squiggle to find out why.
When I think of American bands that have had a lasting influence on the direction of American rock and roll or music (particularly live music) in general, the Grateful Dead should be at the top of anyone's list. Led Zeppelin has deep roots in the blues, but their integration of other forms of American music pretty much stops there. The music of The Grateful Dead, on the other hand is a fusion of folk, country, blues and jazz.
The Grateful Dead were pioneers in the production of music and sound. The first to use 16-track recordings in the studio. The "wall of sound" system they used in the 70's is still the standard for optimal sound reproduction, as well as the standard design of most mega-concert sound systems. They were also one of the first (if not the first) to really reach out to their fans, sending out newsletters and unreleased recordings to their fans at no charge. They established a mail order ticket purchasing system that many groups still used. One of the first newsgroups created on the internet (before e-mail) concerned the Dead.
The Grateful Dead changed the way many live concerts were presented. Most groups did the same set night after night for their entire tour; if you saw them once, you saw them a hundred times. The Dead rarely played the same song 2 consecutive nights. While many of today's choreographed concerts are still done that way, many groups have followed the example of the Dead and give people variety and spontaneity that is often lacking in many shows.
Their work ethic was legendary. In their thirty year history, they played over 2000 shows. Jerry Garcia, with his side work included, has probably sold more tickets than any other musical figure in the 20th century.
Their impact on cover art for albums was also huge. Grateful Dead logos are everywhere, from "stealies" to dancing bears and skeletons. Merchandising, come on, you see Grateful Dead tee shirts and bumper stickers in any store that sells the stuff.
The Grateful Dead supported their community and have done many concerts for various charitable organizations. Their sponsorship of the Lithuanian Basketball team in 1992 is a truly great story. The surviving members of the band continue to perform benefit concerts for the Rex Foundation and other charities.
Their music appeals to all generations that bother to take the time to listen to it. They have written some of the deepest, most powerful songs I have ever heard. They rarely performed standard rock songs about sex, drugs and rock & roll. Their music is still widely available to the public. Unlike most famous groups who carefully guard copies of live recordings, tapes of Dead shows are available for free at countless internet sites. The influence of their music on many of my generation is inestimable.
I could go on and on.
If you read this far, perhaps you can help me. I want to know how to start an online petition to have the band honored at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. by the President of the United States of America. Personally, I'd like to see Jerry on a stamp, but that's probably a little to much to ask. I know there are more than a few current or retired deadheads on this site and I would welcome your input. I'm going to play around to try to make an acceptable draft of a petition, but I would really like input on how to publicize it.