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Taking It A Little Bit ‘Furthur’


I have to apologize for being a day late on my obligatory Earth Day post. How about we call it Earth Week, and forgive the busy blogger? Even better, let’s axe the holiday, but keep its traditions year round. Don’t worry, that’s about as preachy as I’ll get for tonight.

What I’d really like to share with you is how the Grateful Dead played and continue to play their part in making the Earth a healthy, happy place. Last month at the NYHS, (blogged about here), I came across a poster for the 1988 Madison Square Garden Benefit for the Rainforest.

I was intrigued because I was never really sure what part the Dead played in social and political issues. I assumed they had something to say and said it loudly. I, no big surprise here, was wrong. In the 1988 United Nations Rainforest Press Conference Jerry explains,

“The thing that makes it [the benefit] newsworthy from our point of view is that we’ve never really called on our fans, the Deadheads, to align themselves one way or another as far as any particular cause is concerned, because of a basic paranoia about leading someone. We don’t want to be the leaders, and we don’t want to serve unconscious fascism.”

In the case of the rapidly diminishing rainforests across the world, Jerry and the band couldn’t keep silent and they didn’t want their fans to either. Tribes, communities, wildlife, and humanity were (and still are) at risk, and the Grateful Dead felt it was their duty to take action. They also believed strongly in a grassroots movement with as little bureaucratic interference as possible. This was to be a movement by the people. And so, on September 24, 1988, the Grateful Dead would play for the people. All proceeds from ticket sales were split between the Grateful Dead (for future benefits), Greenpeace, the Rainforest Action Network, and Cultural Survival. Check out the set list and listen to the benefit concert at

Today, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir raise money and awareness for a broad spectrum of environmental and social change issues through the Furthur Foundation. Taking their socio-political influence one giant step further, Lesh, Weir and Mickey Hart united in 2008 to back presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Clearly, they aren’t as shy as they once were.

Happy Earth Week everyone. Get out there and save something.

“Picture a bright blue ball just spinning, spinning free
Dizzy with eternity
Paint it with a skin of sky, brush in some clouds and sea
Call it home for you and me
A peaceful place, or so it looks from space
A closer look reveals the human race
Full of hope, full of grace, is the human face
But afraid we may lay our home to waste”

Throwing Stones

References and Links:

UN Rainforest Press Conference Transcript

NY Times Article on the Rainforest Benefit

The Set Lists and Audio


Rainforest Action Network

Cultural Survival

High Times Interview with Garcia

Furthur Foundation

One Comment leave one →
  1. 04/24/2010 7:54 am

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