He’s Gone and Nothing’s
Gonna Bring Him Back:
The Dead, the dead, and
the Grateful Dead
Imagine this news flash:
The estate of Jerry Garcia sues to prohibit use of the Grateful Dead
name because Garcia’s heirs plan to reform the group with a new
line-up. Madonna, looking for a new image, has announced her
acceptance of the offer to sing for the band. The remaining mem-
bers of the band will be chosen in an American Idol-like television
competition to be called “Who wants to be one of the Dead?”
Marketing analysts say the band has tremendous earning potential.
Don’t worry. It really hasn’t happened. But what if it did? Would this group he the Grateful Dead? What if they toured a lot and developed a following of fashionable, expensivelydressed teeny-boppers, would these fans be “Deadheads”? Would these changes simply be another shift in style like ones the band had experienced before (perhaps like the one that came with Workingman’s Dead or after Touch of Grey hit the pop charts?) What is it that made (or makes) the Grateful Dead the Grateful Dead?
The answer to this last question may be more complicated than it appears at first. You might say, isn’t it just the people in the band that make it the band that it is? But think about it. The Grateful Dead has changed members many times.
Early on they added Mickey Hart to the band, and the band has had more keyboard players than Spinal Tap had drummers. Pigpen started out as the keyboard player. However, fairly early on Tom Constanten joined the band only to drop out a few