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Living With the Dead

A Novato photographer has built a career around photographing bands like the Grateful Dead.

The Grateful Dead in Binghamton, N.Y., Nov. 6, 1977.

WHAT IS IT about the Grateful Dead?

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, a s a young Dead Head, I saw San Francisco and Marin County as mythical places. They were home to many of my favorite bands and musicians — the Jefferson Airplane, John Cipollina and Quicksilver Messenger Service, Janis Joplin, Santana, the New Riders of the Purple Sage, and of course, Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead.

The music of the Grateful Dead inspired a sense of adventure in me and opened my mind to possibilities. After reading antiestablishment classics like Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, I was determined to visit the Bay Area.

Cementing my resolve was this announcement that appeared on the sleeve of the Grateful Dead’s Skull and Roses album: DEAD FREAKS UNITE Who are you? Where are you? How are you? Send us your name and address and we’ll keep you informed. Dead Heads, P.O. Box 1065, San Rafael, California 94901

In 1977, just out of high school, I made my pilgrimage to the promised land, the San Francisco Bay Area. While there, I lucked out and caught a Jerry Garcia Band show and met a lot of great people. I couldn’t resist coming back later that year for the Grateful Dead’s New Year’s run at Winterland.

It was after these trips and subsequent ones (I couldn’t stay away) that I knew someday I would live in Marin.

Marin County had fascinated the Grateful Dead as wel l . They were living in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury, and in 1966 they spent the summer at Rancho Olompali on Mount Burdell in Novato, close to where I now live. Finally, in 1968, all of the band members made the move north to Marin.

They set up band headquarters in 1970 in San Rafael, in a classic Victorian on the corner of Fifth and Lincoln avenues. Over the ensuing years they had various recording studios, homes and offices throughout Marin.

Back in 1965, I’m sure, none of the band members could have imagined that the music they were creating would become a lasting force in American culture, one that has reached this 50-year milestone. To celebrate, the Dead performed two shows in Santa Clara last month, leading up to the big final concerts for the band at Chicago’s Soldier Field this month.

We are fortunate they continue their legacy in Marin County with Phil Lesh’s Terrapin Crossroads, the revived Sweetwater Music Hall, Bob Weir’s Tamalpais Research Institute and a host of other venues. These exciting spaces feature not only Grateful Dead music, but also original music from many young musicians and artists influenced by the Dead in some way, who are carving out their own style and contributing to the renaissance of live music in Marin County.

Click on each button to see photos of the Grateful Dead through the decades.

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