From 1965 to 1995, Phil Lesh was bass player for the Grateful Dead, one of the premier rock groups out of the Haight-Ashbury 1960s, widely acclaimed as the greatest live band ever. Now 61 years old, Lesh -- like legions of his graying boomer cohorts and once-upon-a-time psychedelic rangers -- has mellowed into preoccupations with health maintenance (he had a liver transplant in 1998) and semi-political causes of social and environmental import. And he heads up the experimental jam group, Phil and Friends.
What did the Grateful Dead mean to you? I never followed them on tour, but I saw them in the Boston Garden many a time. A Grateful Dead concert was an occasion to unwind, relax, be yourself and listen to some fantastic music without anybody giving you a hard time. Their lead guitarist, Jerry Garcia, epitomized an era.
Who was your favorite band member? I like Jerry Garcia, of course, but I'm also a fan of Bob Weir, their rhythm guitarist. I saw his group, Ratdog, at The Casino in New Hampshire a couple years ago.
What's your favorite Dead song? "Touch of Grey." It's a bit commercial for them but it's still a nice song.
What's your best Dead memory? Unfortunately, it's getting tickets to see them in the Boston Garden just before Jerry died (but after the tickets went on sale). We could have cashed them in and got our money back, but we kept the tickets as a kind of memorial.
What's the best rock-linked social cause? The campaign of Bono (lead singer of U2) to get the debt forgiven in some of the poorest Third World countries.
Carpentry, teaching assistant
What did the Grateful Dead exemplify? A rock band out of Haight-Ashbury that was famous as the best live band in history. To be honest, I didn't like them all that much until I saw them live, which made me realize they were way beyond anything else I was listening to.
Do you have a favorite album? I don't listen to their albums much. They aren't nearly as good as tapes of their live performances. I have 50-some tapes of Dead concerts. My favorite is a two-night run in Germany in 1987.
What's your favorite Dead song? "Sugar Magnolia." It's so danged cheerful.
What's your best Dead memory? A 1993 Dead concert that I attended with two guitarist friends in Denver. They explained a lot about the music to me while all around us everyone was getting off on it and dancing away.
What's the best rock-linked social cause? Phil Lesh's campaign to collect and preserve folk music from around the world.
What did the Grateful Dead exemplify? A great band that had a cult-like following for 30 years. They had a laid-back, why-so-busy, let's-enjoy-life, do-it-instead-of-worry-about-it attitude.
What's the best Dead song? "Truckin."
What's your favorite Dead album? Probably Dylan and the Dead, because my wife's a huge Dylan fan.
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Amazing story of some amazing groups of people who care. Well done.