Robert G. Weiner
The Grateful Dead is the most loved and hated band in the world. The band, its music, its members, and its fans—the Deadheads—have always been the subjects of discussion and argument, and there are few who can claim the middle ground between love and hate. However, one must realize that the Grateful Dead was more than just a rock band. The Grateful Dead was, and still is, a driving force in popular culture. The band earned a place in the 1998 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records under ‘‘most rock concerts performed’’ (182), played to more people than any other band (an estimated twenty-five million, in audiences of up to eighty thousand for a single performance), and, in 1994, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Unlike many other bands, the Grateful Dead has also earned a name for itself in the world of art. The traditional art world finally took notice of Grateful Dead–inspired art when the Huntington Beach Art Center in Huntington Beach, California, hosted a 1996 exhibit entitled Dead on the Wall: Grateful Dead and Deadhead Iconography from Thirty Years on the Bus. This exhibit celebrated the history of the band and its fans by showcasing the community-based art that they inspired. The director of programs, Ty Stallings, commented that this exhibit was the first to ‘‘highlight the home-grown styles and iconography of Deadheads, and features art, memorabilia, and music relating to the Grateful Dead’’ (1).
Perhaps the best way to exhibit the extreme division in the Grateful Dead love/hate controversy is to present it in the words of some of those who have helped fuel it. The comments and quotes provided can be categorized under several headings, including: The Band, The Music, The Fans, and Jerry Garcia.