The Arty Semite

Hippie Days Are Here Again

By Ezra Glinter

  • Print
  • Share Share

There is a much buzzed-about exhibit on the Grateful Dead going on right now at the New York Historical Society, which comes as a colorful contrast to the museum’s usual fare of Lincoln arcana and 18th century portraiture.

I was wondering, at first, what exactly the Jewish angle is on the Dead. Sure, you don’t have to look very far to find a ‘Steal Your Face’ yarmulke (there is one included in the NYHS exhibit), and the band did have one Jewish member, drummer Mickey Hart. More to the point, perhaps, the Dead are reputed to have held a Passover Seder backstage each year, usually coinciding with the New York stop of their spring tour.

All of this seemed redundant, however, when I showed up last week at a panel discussion being held in concurrence with the exhibit at the Society for Ethical Culture on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where the Jewish component of Deadhead fandom was out in number. The crowd was more or less what you’d expect — middle-aged music fans, aging hippies, and respectable uptown professionals eager to recall youthful extravagances. Unsurprisingly, there were a few yarmulkes in the crowd (though none that I noticed with Dead decorations), along with a larger number of less-observant Jews who recalled, after the lecture, how the band always managed to schedule their shows on the High Holidays, leading inevitably to new rounds of inter-generational conflict.

Not all of the recently rekindled interest in the Dead is simply a matter of hippie nostalgia, however. A recent article in the Atlantic Monthly argued that the band’s carefully cultivated relationship with its intensely loyal fan base was decades ahead of its time in terms of business management theory, as was its conviction that sometimes the best way to make money is to give things away for free. The NYHS exhibit is replete with evidence of the Dead’s forward thinking approach, from recordings from its tour hotline to pieces of fan art licensed by the Dead as official merchandise. ‘Steal Your Face’ YamulKap, anyone?


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Grateful Dead, New York Historical Society

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • How do you make people laugh when they're fighting on the front lines or ducking bombs?
  • "Hamas and others have dredged up passages form the Quran that demonize Jews horribly. Some imams rail about international Jewish conspiracies. But they’d have a much smaller audience for their ravings if Israel could find a way to lower the flames in the conflict." Do you agree with J.J. Goldberg?
  • How did Tariq Abu Khdeir go from fun-loving Palestinian-American teen to international icon in just a few short weeks? http://jd.fo/d4kkV
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.