I may not have literally had Jerry Garcia in my life, but sometimes it sure felt like I did. In my house music reigned supreme. I can’t remember many childhood memories where there wasn’t a soundtrack that didn’t accompany it. Through all the early lessons on rock n’ roll there was still one act that trumped them all it seemed. The Grateful Dead. Yes, my mother is one of the notorious Deadheads. (Deadhead = a group of fans so mythical in music due to the subculture they created around the band they loved. Move over Beliebers or Swifties, you’ve got nothing on the Deadheads.)
The sounds of the ultimate jam band permeate my upbringing, who I am today, and eventually forged part of the unique bond I have with my mother.
Now I should point out that all the stereotypes about patchouli, psychedelics, and tye-dye surrounding Deadheads are a little over-exaggerated. Okay, maybe not the tye-dye but still. (The sheer amount of tye-dye in my wardrobe as a child was staggering.) While it was always a colorful journey at the end of the day it was a normal upbringing – just one that happened to use music as a way of instilling values. Through the songs of The Grateful Dead I was taught about following my heart, bringing more peace and love to the world, and enjoying every weird moment of my life.
Here’s the thing – I was not a fan of The Grateful Dead growing up. As much as the lighting bolt skull and the dancing bears were as synonymous to the smiley face to me I didn’t like the music. I even went as far as a smart mouthed seven year old telling my mother The Backstreet Boys were so much better. We can say that didn’t go over too well, I’m certain I got my precious GameBoy taken away for that line. My dislike for their music continued far into my teenage years. It wasn’t until recently that I began to have a fondness for The Grateful Dead. It brings me a form of nostalgia every time I listen to it. I connect their music to my mother, my godparents, and the sound of my childhood.
The Grateful Dead goes farther than that in a unique way – they allowed me to forge a bond with my mother over truly being a fan of music. Not many other people understand my all encompassing (and sometimes extreme) passion that has shaped my life. Instead of telling me to find more worthy pass times, my mom encouraged my love of music. She never belittled how much music could move me or the lengths I’d go to experience it in person. Instead as I’ve gotten older it’s been something we’ve discussed in great detail and gotten closer over swapping stories. The power that music has had in our lives. Remembering all the times we cried and danced, the shows that changed our lives…it was all building a shared connection between us.
I can’t imagine many other parents that would find it perfectly reasonable to spend too much money and travel around following artists whose show you’ve already seen more times than one could count. The understanding of the spiritual rush and energy you can get experiencing the music live is one of the best feelings in the world. That sometimes the atmosphere and the friends you made through both being fans of the music make all the difference. Most parents would balk at the idea of any of that, but my mom through her love of The Grateful Dead was simply happy I found a similar passion and friendships as her and her Deadheads. There is nothing truly like it.
It’s funny when our two musical worlds collide. When The Grateful Dead end up in conversations about my favorite musicians. The times I can point out the Jerry Garcia handprint decal on Ed Sheeran’s tour bus or Harry Styles donning a dancing bears ring. When we were both excited to see John Mayer and Bob Weir jam out on “Truckin” together. Those moments are when I realize The Grateful Dead really have no age limit or time boundary between my mom and I.
We could say in some respects, The Grateful Dead are partially the reason to why I’m sitting here today twenty-plus years later the face behind a primarily music based blog.
While I’m not a bonafide Deadhead (I can’t even name the majority of their songs) I do have a handful on my iPod that I genuinely enjoy and find myself swaying and singing along to. It makes my mom proud to see the band come full circle. Finally. (She may also gloat at the fact that after all these years she was finally right on her music choices being more worthwhile than I admitted for a very long time.) To check out my selection of favorite tunes, check out my Growing Up with The Grateful Dead playlist on Spotify.
This weekend The Grateful Dead say Fare Thee Well as they play their last three shows (with a few musicians standing in for Jerry Garcia) at Soldier Field in Chicago, Il. It’s been 50 years since the band started in California. In the years since they’ve shaped music history, the power of fans, and my very own life in an iconic and unique way.
What a long strange trip it’s been.
Do you have any musical artists that remind your of your parents?
Until next time,