It was 2001, and the Grateful Dead’s iconic album “American Beauty” was blaring through the newly purchased sound system in the bedroom. The up-tempo beat of “Truckin’ ” was raging as Jerry Garcia threw on one of his signature guitar leads into the mix, prompting this teenager to fill with emotion and the drive to dance.
My father, the one who suggested I stop listening to three-chord punk rock and get into “music with a beat,” came in the room unsuspectingly and watched me air guitar as if I were Garcia. “Finally,” he told me, “you’re listening to some good music.”
That’s how it all began. Soon, I was a full-on DeadHead, never getting enough of the band that spawned the largest following music has ever seen. After a while, though, my father suggested I start broadening my horizons by checking out other bands from the era.
“The Band,” he said. “You’ll love them.”
“Pfft, I don’t need anything but the Dead,” I said with that smug, I-know-everything look that teenagers often have.
Eleven years and many albums later, I now know my dad was right. I still remember being in the car with him when “The Weight” came on the radio, immediately following a live rendition of the Allman Brothers Band instrumental “Jessica.” My brother and I were, politely, told to shut up. The windows were rolled up and the volume was cranked.
That’s when I “got it.”
The Band, an American institution in its own right, has become one of my favorites. I wasn’t lucky enough to ever see them live – they broke up for good in the 1980s – but I did see the Levon Helm Band numerous times in the last six years. Helm was the heart, soul and unique backbeat of The Band, and also did much of the singing. It was a trip, an experience, a ride back in time to when music was played on instruments and not through the newest computer software.