Phil Lesh101 wrote:
playingdead wrote:Plus you'll wind up with a better job and be able to afford better bass gear when you're older. It's hard to become an actual rock star.
I Read it all. But you still compare My spelling To My music? I dont see them matching at All
Rusty. Scooob- I Read books, about The Grateful Dead thats it, I Dont spend my free time Reading up on my Twilight Series
I think you are missing the point. Music is communication. Typing in a forum is communication. The Grateful Dead and other musicians strive to communicate in the best way possible. They try not to play wrong notes and they try to play phrases with coherent ideas. It's the same thing with the way people type or speak. At this point I have zero interest in hearing what you play because you have demonstrated to me that your style of communication is shallow and ill-considered. I'm sure it will sound jumbled, confused and ultimately won't be really saying anything. I'm sure it will be loud and enthusiastic. That would make for some great punk rock, so I'd love to hear that, but in other genres, it won't be so effective.
As far as what you read, don't read anything about the Grateful Dead. They didn't get to where they were by reading about the Grateful Dead. Seanc is totally right, they got to where they are by reading great literature, studying great art, etc. Jerry was a painter before he decided to music full time. Phil had seriously studied modern jazz and classical music. Weir spent time disassembling Dvorak string quartets and absorbing the roles of McCoy Tyner and other jazz pianists. The point is that all of these things give you ideas and context about the what it means to be a human being and those ideas are fodder for expression. The one member of the GD who did not have this intellectual background was Brent and to me, it showed in his music. He was the only guy to write overt love songs in a very shallow paradigm. His jamming, while enthusiastic and his ability to rock was good, was shallow and intrusive on the other musicians and limited where they went a lot of times. I realize I'm probably offending a lot of Brent fans, but that's just the way I heard it.
All of the great musicians I've known and played with were voracious readers and learned everything they could about art, culture, history, science, psychology, etc. If you ever get a chance to hang with Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon, you won't be able to find a subject on which he can't converse, from 18th century art to geology. What it comes down to is if you don't know anything, you can't play anything. If you think that's too much irrelevant work, that you need to just focus on the grateful dead, then at best you'll be an enthusiastic fan without a lot of friends because they'll be tired of listening to you jabber on incoherently about the Grateful Dead. If you study the heck out of the whole world, you'll be the guy that everyone wants to listen to, and that includes when you have your instrument in your hands.
To show that I put my money where my mouth is, 2 years ago, I decided to take time off being a full time musician and go to law school. It's been one of the hardest things I've ever done. Going to the Berklee College of Music was absolutely useless as far as education to prepare me for this. In fact, they didn't even teach me that much about being a musician, but that's a story for another day. Luckily, I had a rigorous high school. Back then, like you, I was pretty absorbed by the Grateful Dead, but I also loved to read absolutely everything. Between that and my high school education, which I somewhat reluctantly participated in, I managed to learn how to write and think to a certain degree. So, I got into law school and have done OK. This week, I had my first trial in front of a jury and I won. I kept a guy out of jail and I was able to tell a story to a jury that made sense and convinced them that the prosecution had not met their burden. They found me logical and persuasive. I found it very similar to improvising on stage (especially because I had to wing it on most of my close, given that the prosecution decided not to submit evidence on which I had based the written version).
What does this have to do with music? Well, the most common feedback that I get is that people say they love listening to my bass playing, especially in the Grateful Dead context because it always tells a story. They tell me that most other GD bands they hear in this area have bassists who just play the parts, but don't transport them into another world that takes them out of their immediate surroundings (Luckily I don't live in an area where they get to hear Rusty and some of the other players who are on this forum! If they did, they'd quickly change their tune as you guys all rock!
). I didn't get this way by studying the Grateful Dead exclusively, I haven't spent that much time studying Phil's playing. I went to a lot of shows in the late 70s and into the early 80s, so I absorbed a bunch of it. I did happen to study classical, modern classical and jazz music, so I experienced what his background is. My grandfather, as a concert pianist in the 40s and a composer of piano music, was friends with a lot of Phil's heroes from the 20th century music scene, so I grew up with that stuff. I also got this way because by the time I was in 5th grade, I had read almost every book in my elementary school library. I got this way because every time my bands would have time off in a big city, I wouldn't go party, I'd go to the art museums and learn about the artists and the times in which they lived. I got this way because I studied macrobiotics, Buddhism, Christianity, and other spiritual disciplines. I got this way because I played oboe for 10 years and played lots of renaissance music, classical music and modern music (want to learn how to weave an abstract story? Study Hindemith. Some of it is very atonal, yet very compelling). While my house is crammed full of musical stuff, it's got even more books and art.
My wife has little patience for the GD (yes, it's a mixed marriage) but she loves my playing because she hears outside the Grateful Dead context to the music that I play. It's the musicians who only the know the GD that she has no patience for. She's an artist who trained as a painter but discovered that training carried over to perfumery and through hard study, she's become one of the premier perfumers of the world. However, she can do that because she's got a huge wealth of knowledge of art and perfume gained by deep study of all of the influences behind them. Most of the people in her field are chemists, so what makes things interesting to them doesn't speak to the human experience, but to a narrow vision of scientific coherence. She makes poetry and speaks to the human experience with the medium of scent. She's learned the chemistry along the way, but what has been important is her experience with art.
What does this have to do with Phil? He's one of the most erudite musicians out there. He's an intellectual force and a student of the human condition through literature, art, etc. and it comes out in every note. If you want to play "like Phil" don't study Phil, study the world and become an expert in communication. I can hold the attention of a jury because I can hold the attention of an audience and vice versa. I'm not trying to say all this out of self-aggrandizement, but to point out that success in music comes from becoming a well rounded human being. I think I'm actually a pretty mediocre bass player, but people overlook my shortcomings in that way because I've become a person who has something to say and music is ultimately a vehicle to tell a story. It REALLY does help that I know how to spell and take the time to check my spelling (probably 60% of the words of this post started out with a misspelling). One thing that the Dead learned from Bear on a personal level is to be an expert in everything you do. Don't fuck around. (That dude knew it all, from weather to ballet.). Be excellent!
When you aren't able to be excellent, be quiet.
To bring it in complete context, I'm positive that Phil is a consummate speller. By the way he plays music I know that he would never misspell anything. I know that he got that way not by learning to spell but by reading so much that he knows how things are spelled and that he's careful enough about what he says that he makes sure he gets it right. That is something worth emulating.
And finally, it's been mentioned that the deadheads of the past weren't simply focused on the Dead. This is very true. When I started going to shows in the mid 70s, I would meet the most interesting people. The guy on my left might be a doctor, the guy to my right a carpenter, the woman in front of me a historian, the woman behind me a rolfer. All of them were intensely interested in what they were doing and their context in the human experience. The hippie movement started not because people wanted to just hang out and get stoned, but because they rebelled against the corporate world that just revered wealth. Notice that now that the hippie movement has waned, we have some of the same problems that they rejected back then: a world run and being ruined by greed and materialism. Real hippies studied and worked like hell to bring us out of that suicidal paradigm. Just like Bear, they were experts and they were inspiring as all hell. Be that!