KQED Forum: Lecturer Peter Richardson's 'Cultural History of the Grateful Dead'

Thursday, January 29, 2015
Photo of Peter Richardson

KQED-FM FORUM -- Fifty years ago, the original members of the Grateful Dead stepped onstage for their first show at a Menlo Park pizza shop. It marked the birth of a band that would define the hippie culture of the 1960s and earn what many consider the most loyal fans of any rock band in history.

In his new book, “No Simple Highway: A Cultural History of the Grateful Dead” (St. Martin’s Press), Peter Richardson examines the band’s utopian ideals and lasting appeal. He discusses the band’s entrepreneurship.

“They didn’t really have those supporting institutions that artists maybe in other cities did, so they always had to make their own party,” says Richardson, a lecturer in Humanities and American Studies at San Francisco State University. “I think the Dead ingested that attitude about their own operation. They were always trying to figure out how they could take more control — not only the music and its production and dissemination — but also over the entire operation, touring operation, even their travel arrangements. ... Every piece of their operation they basically invented including the instruments and the sound system.”


Photo: courtesy University Communications