TIL the band Grateful Dead got its name in 1965 after Jerry Garcia found the term in the Britannica World Language Dictionary along with the definition "the soul of a dead person, or his angel, showing gratitude to someone who, as an act of charity, arranged their burial".

  1. "The Grateful Dead Man" has a long history in folktales, so long that it is one of the numbered folk tale "motifs" cataloged by anthropologists like Stith Thompson. If I recall right, it is found in folk tales all over the world.

  2. I can’t help but think he also might have been influenced by Krushov’s (Premier of the USSR then) statement a couple years earlier that in the case of a nuclear war that “…the living will envy the dead.” It was a huge part of the zeitgeist back then as I remember, following the Bay of Pigs standoff.

  3. Cool! Blows my theory out the water: from Blind Lemon Jefferson's, 'One Kind Favour' - which Grateful Dead do cover. Tune is about a man wanting his grave to be kept clean upon burial. It does heavily tie into the reason above though!

  4. You might be interested to know that a different SF band - Jefferson Airplane - was named after Blind Lemon Jefferson. According to founding guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, his nickname was "Blind Thomas Jefferson Airplane," a name given to him by his friend Richmond "Steve" Talbot, inspired by the name of one of Kaukonen's influences, bluesmen Blind Lemon Jefferson. According to Kaukonen, when the band was trying to come up with a name, they were "...coming up with all these really stupid names and I said, 'If you want something really silly, try Jefferson Airplane.'" The rest of the band liked it and it stuck.

  5. Jewish tradition has it that someone always sits with the dead, that they are never left alone before burial. This is considered "high mitzvah" (mitzvah is a worthy deed) because that person can never come back to thank those who sat with them. That has always stuck with me, a charity more powerful because there is no possible way to acknowledge or repay it. It moved me to keep my charities towards the homeless anonymous but thinking it through, I see where it could cause a feeling of indebtedness with the recipient. Clearly, the x-ians who came up with this "grateful dead" thing have found a way around the need to repay!

  6. Cool. I would have thought it came from Shakespeare. I seem to remember the phrase in one of the plays. Something like:

  7. There’s a fantastic podcast that talks about this and goes into a deep dive about other parts of their history called Dead and Gone. It focuses primarily on a number of murders and disappearances that occurred within the community that followed the band. (As in literally, they had caravans of busses and would set up camps.)

  8. Both the Dead and Velvet underground first went by the name The Warlocks. Word is when they learned of each other they both changed their name.

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