Respect For The Dead
To the Editor,
Regarding Tom Danehy's "Dead 'N' Jerried" (Tucson Weekly, August 17): Let me begin by saying that I do not agree with Danehy's reaction when some depressed Deadheads considered suicide after the passing of Jerry Garcia. Yes, it is foolish, but not without some validity. It is obvious, Tom, that you never did "get" the Grateful Dead and even more apparent that you never understood what the Dead and Jerry provided for their audience.
To you, it was merely music, and as you put it "so-so" and "generic." To a person of your mindset this does not come as a surprise. The Dead were much more than a rock and roll band, and if you weren't "connected," then I don't expect this to make much sense, but I will try to spell it out for you as best I can.
Every time the Grateful Dead took to the stage it was pure magic, and nothing less. Not only did they perform some of the most wildly inventive modern musical pieces, but their music had a meaning, a purpose. It was this initial magic that attracted so many to Grateful Dead shows around the world. The Dead not only provided their audience with "feel-good" tunes, they provided a forum that could not be found anywhere else.
You are so puzzled that the Dead had a devout following that gave up virtually everything to follow their favorite band...but they were following much more than that; most were following a dream. The Dead provided a forum that allowed anyone, regardless of race, color and creed, to experience a traveling world of peace and unity. Every Deadhead provided something to the community: music, clothing, food, shelter and, most importantly, friendship and love. It was a self-sufficient community that had all of the necessities for survival.
The Deadhead culture may have appeared to be a group of dirty, drug-crazed dregs, but one thing that they all had and shared was love. While you were so busy trying to figure out why the Dead was so popular you didn't take the time to look around you. Did you see the looks on the faces of the people when the Dead pulled a "Scarlet Fire"? Did you ever see what happened as the second set closed with "Not Fade Away"? And encored with "Brokedown Palace"? My guess is that you didn't. Because if you had, you would have felt the reason that the Dead survived as long as they did. How often is it that you have heard 60,000 people singing the same songs of peace and love, and being brought to tears from the emotion on stage? How many other places have you seen strangers hugging strangers, and people sharing what little they have with one another? It was a brief peek into the way the world is supposed to be. Let's see Yanni pull that one off.
If you can dismiss all of this as psychedelic-drug delirium, then I feel sorry that you never felt the love and unity that existed with the "family." So you might think that the only reason they followed the Dead was because it was an easy place to "drop out" and be accepted. Wrong. The music was the glue that held everyone together. The Deadheads could not have existed without the music of the Grateful Dead, just as the Grateful Dead could not have existed without the Deadheads.
You asked ignorantly, "What good is it to be in a band whose constituency consists of people who start sentences with 'Oh wow man'?" Well, obviously you have overlooked the vast majority of Deadheads' intellect. Take, for example, that the Internet is frequently used by professionals to find out what's happening with the Grateful Dead. Tipper Gore, the mayor of San Francisco, and numerous political figures world wide have proclaimed their love for the Grateful Dead. As you failed to notice, Jerry's followers are from all walks of life: rich and poor, brilliant and burned out, dead and alive.
Back to the reason why so many were distraught by Jerry's passing. It was not only the death of a man who had brought so much love to millions of people, it was the end of an era. Jerry Garcia had been a father figure to many that never had one. Millions of people have met life-long friends because of the Dead, and millions more have had their faith in humanity restored after a Dead show. It is safe to say the Grateful Dead has spread more love than any other musical group in history. On the day that Jerry died, we all realized that this wonderful phenomenon had come to an end.
On a personal note, I will truly miss Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead. Some of the most memorable experiences in my life occurred while Jerry Garcia was on stage. Some of my closest friends have come from Dead experiences, and the annual reunions that we so looked forward to are now gone. The Grateful Dead has taught me many things and I feel very lucky to have seen Jerry Garcia work his magic. In a world full of violence and hatred, the Grateful Dead offered us an alternative, and for that I thank you, Jerry Garcia. Your memory will live on forever. "Fare thee well."
--Matthew J. Nelson
Acid TestTo the Editor,
I can't help but respond to Tom Danehy's bizarre attack on the Dead and their followers ("Dead 'N' Jerried," Tucson Weekly, August 17). It's not because my taste in music is different from his, or because I'm a diehard Deadhead. I've only been to two shows, and I like Van Morrison and the AWB just like him. Tom, if you had your way, the world would be a fuzzy and predictable place, full of happy, straight people with no problems, no passion, no desperation. They would be like you, Tom: a perfect porcelain totem with a bright finish; a living icon representing all that is sober and true; a urinal.
You say, "Music is subjective; that's its charm as well as its curse." Why is this a curse, Tom? Why is subjectivity a curse? Would the world be a better place without it? Hey, you ought to tell me what radio station to listen to. You ought to show me how to dance. You ought to tell me who to vote for. After all, "Are we going to let these people vote in the next election?" The suicidal ones, I mean. The ones who are not shiny urinals like you. The ones who think dark thoughts. The ones who listen to Sinead O'Connor and the Dead.
Oh, but I shouldn't be so hard on you, Tom. You're really very cool. After all, you saw Linda Ronstadt at the Palomino, you caught Cream's farewell concert at the Forum, you're a John Cougar Mellencamp fan! Heck, you're quite a bit older and wiser than me and you say "No!" to drugs and hairy-legged women and silly, drugged-out, suicidal men who play the guitar backwards and pour lighter fluid on it for kicks. What a guy!
Why do you suppose it is that some people have a hard time accepting others' success? Some would claim that Gary Kildall killed himself out of jealousy of Bill Gates. Gary's own small fortune and fleet of expensive toys just couldn't keep him happy. After all, Bill had stolen his ideas and made a fortune at his expense. And so, perhaps, with you and the Dead. You could never understand their popularity, their culture; "there was nothing there." Are you just a wee bit jealous? Or are you a musical virtuoso masquerading as a mediocre writer, having waited patiently for the perfect opportunity to pounce, like an impotent cougar, upon a roadkilled deer?
Tom, your outlook troubles me, but there's hope for you yet, and there are millions of Deadheads who'd forgive you and maybe even include you in their game of hack. But first, I suggest you treat yourself to a nice hit of clean acid and a pint of Cherry Garcia. Maybe I'm Waiting for a Miracle, but it's better than death.
To the Editor,
Jeepers! I wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of Jeff Biggers ("Bad Penmanship," Letters, Tucson Weekly, August 17). Golly! By self-admission, he's acquainted with the works of Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer, Ann Rule, Jack Olsen, John Nichols, Bernard DeSoto, Ed Abbey, Leslie Silko, Russ Meyer, Vincent Buglioso, Ursula LeGuin, Denise Chavez, and Wallace Stegner--just to name a few.
I personally became acquainted with the works of Chuck Bowden about a year ago and was delighted with his adventures in nature. It was a pleasure not unlike reading Abbey's non-fiction.
But now I find out that he is nothing but "a gluttonous bantamweight, a wanna-be white trash poster child in middle-class denial." Granted that I have no idea what that means--but it certainly doesn't sound very good.
Speaking of denial, I wonder if Mr. Biggers has given any thought to Primal Therapy. Maybe put a little focus on that anger. Barking dogs, indeed.
--Stanley B. Carruth
Web HeadTo the Editor,
It's about time someone put Tucson on the Web. Far better that Tucson Weekly does it than the city council, any of the major newspapers, or some contingent of university students (mind you, UA students do a pretty damn good job as well). Some advice (free, and thereby worthless): If you keep your web site continuously up-to-date you could find yourself the primary resource for the Tucson social scene in a year or so. I wouldn't mind seeing some of the Weekly's politics diffuse through the populace, either.
--John E. Joganic
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