At the pump behind me at the gas station is a 30-something guy of obvious Latino descent.
“Huh?” I say. And then, after a moment of realization, “Oh….uh, I don’t know. And you’d think I would, right?” What he’s hearing is my MP3 player blaring “They Love Each Other” as I pump my gas. I thought about it for a quick second, and decided that no, I still don’t know what Grateful Dead show this song comes from.
For you non-Deadheads, I should explain that every live show the Grateful Dead ever performed has been recorded, and in most cases, by many people. This is not bootlegging, mind you. The Dead actually encouraged their fans to record the shows, which in turn, built them a tremendous following, and amongst their fans, an unparalleled sense of community.
“What, is it on the radio?” the guy says to me. “No, it’s my MP3 player, and I’m ashamed that I don’t know what show it is.” However, a quick check of my Rio’s display panel reminds me that the recording is from Barton Hall, Cornell University, 5-8-77. Many Dead devotees consider the Barton Hall show to be the best the band ever played. And that’s saying a lot, because over the course of 30 years the Grateful Dead performed live 2,318 times.
“Hey, I got it!” I tell him. “It’s Barton Hall, 5-8-77. The show of all shows, ya know?”
He gives me a smile and a nod.
The weird part of all this is that this guy, based on his age and ethnicity (and driving an import tuner, I might add) is perhaps the last person you’d imagine to be a Deadhead. He totally defies the stereotype. And yet as soon as he got out of his car to pump his gas and heard the grooves coming out of my vehicle, he asked me “What show?”
This is the community that Jerry, Bobby, Phil, and the gang built through their very special creative talents. And as I think of it now, I feel that community is actually a primary goal of the creative process. Or if not a goal, it’s certainly the outcome of most successful creative endeavors.
I want to build things. I want to create in such a way that community forms around the center of what I do. This is how I will measure the success of all of my own creative pursuits from now on.
“They Love Each Other.” Do you think Jesus would have been digging on this song if he’d heard it in his day? I’d like to think so…