The surviving “core four” members of the Grateful Dead – guitarist/vocalist Bob Weir, bassist/vocalist Phil Lesh, and drummer/percussionists Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann – have been putting on a series of farewell shows at Chicago’s Soldier Field, and at least one prominent Chicagoan couldn’t let that pass without weighing in.
“Here’s to fifty years of the Grateful Dead, an iconic American band that embodies the creativity, passion and ability to bring people together that makes American music so great,” Obama wrote. “Enjoy this weekend’s celebration of your fans and legacy. And as Jerry [Garcia] would say, ‘Let there be songs to fill the air.’ ”
The last line references “Ripple,” a song from one of the band’s classic albums, 1970’s American Beauty.
Founding member, lead singer and lead guitarist of the Dead Jerry Garcia died in 1995. Founding member, vocalist and keyboardist Ron “Pigpen” McKernan died in 1973. For the most recent shows, Phish guitarist and vocalist Trey Anastasio filled in for Garcia, and Bruce Hornsby – a Dead alumnus who had several hits of his own, including “The Way It Is” – played keyboards. (Another noted Dead fan, Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin, was in attendance for the Chicago show.)
Obama and the Dead go way back. In February 2008, Weir, Lesh and Hart reunited for the first time to perform at a campaign event for Obama, and they were joined by Kreutzmann for a second show in October of that year. After Obama won the 2008 election, he selected the band as performers at one of his 10 inaugural balls in 2009.