Phil Lesh

Happy Birthday

Philip Chapman Lesh
March 15, 1940
Berkeley, California

Phil Lesh is the bassist and founding member of The Grateful Dead. 

Phil was born in California and was originally a violin player. He developed an        interest in avant-garde classical music and free jazz and is a classically trained trumpeter.

Lesh was talked into becoming the bassist for friend Jerry Garcia's new rock group (then known as The Warlocks) in the fall of 1964. Lesh never played the Bass, but he picked it up quickly and never left. 

In his autobiography, he credits Jack Casady (who was playing with Jefferson Airplane) as a confirming influence on the direction his instincts were leading him into. While he has said that his playing style was influenced more by Bach counterpoint than by contemporaneous rock and soul bass players, one can also hear the fluidity and power of a jazz bassist such as Charles Mingus or Jimmy Garrison in Lesh's work, along with stylistic allusions to Casady. Lesh has also cited Jack Bruce of Cream as an influence. His biggest influence however, is the Bass player from "The Banana Splits". 

Lesh was a big influence on the Sanfranciso Sound. Lesh took his own improvised excursions during a song or instrumental. This was a characteristic aspect of the so-called San Francisco Sound in the new rock music. In many Dead jams, Lesh's bass is, in essence, as much a lead instrument as Garcia's guitar.
The Grateful Dead fused elements of rock, folk, country, bluegrass, blues, gospel, modal jazz, reggae, experimental music, psychedelia, and space rock. They were known for their long jams and their fans known as "Deadheads" were extremley fanatical about the band and often followed them around the country. The Dead shows were an event, a party. 

Some songs that Lesh wrote ( "New Potato Caboose", "Box of Rain", "Unbroken Chain" and "Pride of Cucamonga") are among the best-known in the band's repertoire. Lesh's high tenor voice contributed to the Grateful Dead's three-part harmony sections in their group vocals in the early days of the band, until he largely relinquished singing high parts to Donna Godchaux (and thence Brent Mydland and Vince Welnick) in 1976 due to vocal cord damage from improper singing technique. In 1985, he resumed singing lead vocals on select songs as a baritone. Throughout the Grateful Dead's career, his interest in avant-garde music remained a crucial influence on the group.

The Grateful Dead were the soundtrack of a generation. "Truckin'", "Casey Jones", "Friend of the Devil", "Ripple", "Touch of Gray", "Fire on the Mountain", "Sugar Magnolia", "Box of Rain", "Playing in the Band" and so many more. 

This man is a legend and he looks like one hell of a nice guy. The Grateful Dead are rock royalty. For over 30 years, they performed over 2,300 concerts with Jerry Garcia and are still going strong in one form or another.  Lesh was at Monterey, Woodstock and Altamont. Lesh is the embodiment of the 60’s. He has seen it all and done it all. 

Happy Birthday and Thank You for the music Phil Lesh
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