Artist of the week: Grateful Dead
It’s pretty much impossible to overstate the importance of Grateful Dead in the history of popular music. In spite of being closely associated with the hippie movement, the band took even further their role in counterculture by fusing in a unique and eclectic style elements of country, folk, bluegrass, blues, reggae, rock, jazz, psychedelia and space rock. Led by Jerry Garcia, they spread their message of peace, love and mind expansion throughout the better part of three decades. They were the sheer Godfathers of improvisation: though they sold close to 40 million records and released masterpieces such as Workingman’s Dead (1970) or American Beauty (1971), nothing they committed to tape could ever overshadow the brilliance of the free-form jam aesthetics of their concerts. Their fan following is arguably the most fervent and celebrated in the history of rock’n’roll: any Deadhead will tell you that if their music did orbited far from the mainstream, it never ceased to inhabit their devoted hearts.
Which is why The Day of the Dead is such an important and revelatory achievement: an expansive compilation of covers curated by brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National that is a wide-ranging tribute to the songwriting and experimentalism of the Dead. It took 4 years to record, features over 60 artists from varied musical backgrounds, 59 tracks and is almost 6 hours long. It manages not only demonstrate the influence of the Dead, but is also the most effective way to introduce the band to a whole new generation of listeners. Expect an increase of Deadheads in 2016.
João Pedro da Costa is a web studies scholar and a music fan.