By Michael Stewart
Feeling something meaningful is one of the most personal experiences in a person’s life. It’s tough to truly express how fully meaningful something is. No amount of talking, no matter the level of intoxication, can truly let someone else in on the individual intricacies that make us feel the way we do.
As any rabid Grateful Dead fan- née “Dead-Head”-will tell you, you cannot simply dip a toe into the water of Grateful Dead fandom. I can attest to this point. I did not grow up in a Grateful Dead loving household. My dad is a huge fan of classic rock, but cannot stand Jerry Garcia or the Grateful Dead. As a result, I was not indoctrinated into the church of Jerry until I got to the eighth grade.
There was no special moment that made me fall under the spell binding melodies that the Dead belt out. No weird Uncle got me high and put on old 78 records of Wake of the Flood, while moaning, “This is the way music is supposed to be heard, man.” I was simply surfing YouTube, as I did a lot of nights, and I happened upon a psychedelic mix. Naturally, I clicked on it.
It was not the first time I had heard music by the Grateful Dead before. I had heard songs, but never a full album all the way through. The psychedelic mix took me to the full album video of American Beauty. I am not and have never been a big sleeper, but I knew when I got to the end of the album that I would not be sleeping the rest of the night, for I had many more albums to listen to.
From that point on I was a Dead-Head. I’ve listened to every album at least twice, and the music relaxes me more than maybe anything else on earth. While I was going through chemotherapy infusions for lymphoma, I would put my headphones in and listen to the Dead while pretending to be asleep so no one would talk to me. That calmed me incredibly as I faced intense adversity.
I’ve been through a lot of stuff with the Grateful Dead pumping through my head all the while, but I’ve never had a desire to see them live. In my opinion, the Grateful Dead will never be the Grateful Dead again without Jerry Garcia, and he died in 1995. I will never go see Dead & Company in concert, despite opportunities to do so.
I think the best way I can relate this is through anecdotal television. In the most recent season of BoJack Horseman one of the characters, Diane Ngyuen, is given a large gift by her husband Mr. Peanutbutter; a dog. (Great show, trust me.) The gift is a “Belle Room” which is like Belle’s library in Beauty and the Beast. Ngyuen had mentioned to Mr. Peanutbutter that she wanted this as a child, and he then surprises her by having one put in their new house. She is upset at this because having this thing almost destroys her memory of its grandeur as a child because now she has to live in it every day. I feel the same way about the Dead. If I were to see them now, as old men singing out of key, it would shatter my love and connection to the music that I have had for so long.
Stewart is a multimedia journalism senior