Was the Grateful Dead The Most Important American Band of All Time?
Over the 4th of July weekend at Chicago’s Soldier Field, the four surviving original members of the Grateful Dead, Phish frontman Trey Anastasio, Bruce Hornsby, and Jeff Chimenti will be marking the band’s 50th Anniversary by playing a series of shows in the last setting Jerry Garcia ever performed in before passing away in 1995. A couple of recently-added shows in California notwithstanding, this is the final ‘Fare Thee Well’ to one of America’s most iconic bands.
The Grateful Dead was iconic for sure, but was the band one of the most important American bands in history, if not the most important? Let’s take a look at the band’s legacy and try to answer that question.
It Was One of the Greatest Touring Bands of All Time
When you think of the Grateful Dead, you think of a band with a cult following—not a band that captured the American zeitgeist and held it for an extended period. But the band’s touring success rivals all others, and surpassed any other American band during the height of their era.
The Grateful Dead played to an estimated 25 million people over their career—more than any other band in history. In 1998, The Guinness Book of World Records certified that the band had played the “most rock concerts ever performed” at the time with 2,318. The Grateful Dead played to one of the biggest audiences ever recorded for a live event when they performed at Summer Jam at Watkins Glen in 1973 to an estimated 600,000 people. In the 1990’s, the Grateful Dead made a total revenue of $285 million off of touring, making them the highest-grossing American band of the decade, and the second-highest grossing band only behind The Rolling Stones. What makes that statistic even more remarkable is Jerry Garcia died in 1995, meaning they achieved his feat in the first half of the decade alone. Simply put, the Grateful Dead was a touring juggernaut.
And beyond the astounding statistics and world records, they played countless legendary smaller venues and other important events throughout the country and world. The Grateful Dead played Woodstock. The Grateful Dead played a series of concerts at the pyramids of Giza in Egypt. They were the house band for the Kool-Aid acid tests. They also played an astounding 500 different documented songs during their legendarily improvised concert sets. They also were pioneers and innovators for concert sound. One of the reasons the Grateful Dead was so popular live is because the band just sounded so much better than any other live band. The Grateful Dead were arguably the most important, and most successful live band ever.
It Was The King and One of the Originators of a Musical Era
If you want to be considered the most important American band ever, it’s pretty necessary that you helm an indelible musical movement whose reverberations and relevant contributions can still be felt today, and that’s exactly what the Grateful Dead did with the psychedelic era. Haight & Ashbury in San Francisco was the epicenter of the marriage of psychedelic drugs and music, and the Grateful Dead was the heart of Haight & Ashbury. Hired to play at the Kool-Aid acid tests, Jerry Garcia aptly was named Captain Trips, and the band’s creative marriage of American roots music with nouveau and experimental sounds put it right on the cutting edge of a musical era whose influence would range international, and fuel the dawning of the counterculture.
There were many bands of the psychedelic era that had bigger hits, were more popular, or sold more records. But the Grateful Dead is where it all began. The band’s sophomore album Anthem of the Sun was meant to be listened to while on psychedelics, and married live and studio sounds in a groundbreaking recorded effort. But even though drugs and the Grateful Dead went hand in hand during the mid and late 60’s, even a sober mind could appreciate the inventiveness of the music, and see the creative spark they lit—one that still burns in modern music today.
The Band Mastered So Many Different American Music Genres
As documented above, the Grateful Dead was a pioneering band of the psychedelic era in music, but it began as a blues band. Their first studio record was very much a blues album, and the blues is what the Grateful Dead always came back to during their incredible run. When the appeal for psychedelic music began to trail off, the Grateful Dead went country, and was able to do so with authority since Jerry Garcia had already been working as a steel guitar studio player. Jerry guided the Dead in a country direction and it arguably resulted in the band’s greatest musical era. 1970’s Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty are some of the finest country records ever released, and the band regularly covered songs like Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried” and other country standards in their live sets. Jerry Garcia was also later part of the bluegrass supergroup Old and In The Way.
But when it came time for the band to move on from the country sound, they showed their alacrity and prowess as musicians in the jazz album Blues For Allah. They showed their skills with reggae and funk on Shakedown Street. And in 1987, the rock album In The Dark won the group its greatest commercial success, coming in at #6 on the Billboard 200, and giving the Grateful Dead their first #1 (and Top 40) song with “Touch of Grey.”
Representing nearly all of the diverse and important genres that go into making the wider American music tapestry during its run, the Grateful Dead proved not just its proficiency, but its dedication to distinctly American music forms.
They Had A Major Cultural Impact
The importance of a given artist or band is not always best measured in musical parameters. Sometimes it’s important to consider the cultural impact it had outside of music. And from tie-dye T-shirts, to pints of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream, the legacy of the Grateful Dead left a footprint on American culture like few others.
Some bands and artists have garnered huge followings or inspired stylistic shifts in clothing and hairstyles for a short period, but the culture surrounding the Grateful Dead with Deadheads and beyond is its own subset of American life that has lasted generations. The band’s countercultural identity started in the mid 60’s, outlasted the Regan years, stretched into the Clinton era, and still exists today.
Whether you’re a fan or even familiar with the Grateful Dead’s music, you probably can recognize a Steal Your Face sticker. There are certain words and phrases in the American vernacular that are directly tied to the songs and the culture surrounding the Grateful Dead. And let’s not forget that their concert tours led to the explosion of popularity in other jam bands such as Phish, Dave Matthews Band, and inspired many of America’s modern mega-festivals like Bonnaroo.
What American Bands Were More Important?
Did the Grateful Dead have a lot of huge radio hits? No they didn’t. How about gold and platinum albums? Not so much. Did they win many Grammy awards? That would be negative. But taking into consideration all of their contributions to American culture, who are you going to put above them? Aerosmith? Nirvana? Metallica? Were any of these bands’ impact as lasting and influential as the Grateful Dead? How about Guns ‘N Roses, Kiss, or Van Halen? It almost seems silly to ask. The Eagles, The Beach Boys, Credence, or Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers? Okay, maybe a case could be made for these bands. But the Grateful Dead deserves to be in the discussion, and despite officially calling it quits, their legacy, music, and influence will continue on for generations to come.
July 5, 2015 @ 6:53 pm
Certainly an intriguing piece. I think a case has to be made for Nirvana. Personally, I’m a bigger Pearl Jam fan than Nirvana, but when it comes to a lasting legacy and impact on culture, Nirvana’s was massive. They took us out of the disgusting Hair Metal era and gave us music filled with actual emotion again. An argument can be made whether or not one likes the grunge genre, but you can’t argue with the dedication and emotion that went into every record. For a decade or so, music meant something again in the mainstream. In terms of a longer lasting impact, the Grateful Dead certainly seem to have a leg up. But I think if you were looking for a debate over the question, Nirvana surely is the best challenger.
July 5, 2015 @ 7:21 pm
The issue I have with Nirvana is that the impact was confined to about half a decade to a decade. I think Nirvana is riding high right now because of the Kurt Cobain doc and the 20th Anniversary and all of that, but in the end, when zooming out and looking big picture, they were kind of a blip. I don’t want to degrade Nirvana at all. I think they were a hugely important band and deserve to be in this discussion. But when you have a band that was one of the most influential in the 60’s, and one of the most commercially successful in the 90’s, that is a lasting impact.
July 5, 2015 @ 8:25 pm
Yeah, I wouldn’t include Nirvana for much the same reason.
If Jefferson Airplane had maintained their namesake through the Jefferson Starship days, then I would consider them Ã legitimate contender too. But name changes matter, and Starship really damaged their reputation as did their mÃ©diocre 1985 rÃ©union album.
I’d say the Beach Boys would be #1 on the Most Influential American Bands list. But Grateful Dead might be my #2 (it’s between them and The Eagles). The Eagles have thÃ© clear advantage in commercial returns, but I think The Grateful Dead make up for that Ã huge deal with the culture they’ve inspired around their music, as well as one of the most shamelessly loyal fanbases of all time)
July 6, 2015 @ 6:46 am
I don’t mean to come across as an ass, but the main reasons Nirvana is still prevalent in modern culture has less to do with their music and more to do with the fact that Kurt Cobain ate a shotgun, conspiracy theories run rampant, and the grunge scene imploded overnight just as it had appeared. To imply that Nirvana, a band that only remains in the public consciousness because of outlying factors, is more important than the likes of the Grateful Dead or any of the others that Trigger postulated (that are mostly famous for MUSIC) is really bothersome.
July 6, 2015 @ 12:05 pm
Sure, there’s a mythos around suicide. But plenty of artists have killed themselves and not had the impact as have Nirvana. Darby Crash and Mindy McCready won’t make the same waves Nirvana did. We’re still in close proximity to that time, so who knows what lasting effects will be. I suspect they’ll be more enduring.
June 16, 2017 @ 7:05 am
I would have to say you are sadly mistaken . Nirvana was a good band but certainly not the best band of all time as far as appearance talent songs and connection with the audience . I wouldn’t even consider nirvana anywhere near the best band ever which is a matter of opinion .they were simply a passing phase that was created on purpose to break up the hair metal scene which had more talent in there left pinky than nirvana had in the whole band.and they just touched a certain segment of the population mainly shitty ass lazy white kids
October 28, 2022 @ 8:51 pm
Total agreement. They are 100% a counter-culture band, and as such, most people don’t really know what they ARE. They did not make music for selling records, winning awards, making videos, or getting recognized. Every show was completely different, their “albums” by comparison are almost an insult to their greatness, as if “I guess we have to do this, so blah-there it is.” They had an unparalleled ability to co-create an other-worldly environment with the concert goers.
Now, you do have to “get” the music. There was an undefinable magic, like walking through a wonderland that encapsulated thousands. People were on the move, not stuck at a seat, eyes glued to the stage, but walking, dancing, meandering, spontaneously grouping, connecting, sitting, reeling, floating on luminescent clouds. The music transcended the mundane reality-absolutely no need for drugs. And the people (at the concert) transcended the mundane reality. It was truly like another dimension, you had left planet earth and could enter a sort of paradise for a short while. Bliss was no uncommon experience, neither was joy or freedom or love. Xtasy? NOT NEEDED. Stone cold sober. The synergy between the band and the people was that powerful.
The band were a lightning rod for thousands of counterculture folks who had no place in the harsh musical sounds of rock or the harsh constrictions of American culture. I would not call most of them “fans.” Usually fans stare at the band and idolize the group in a different way. These folks were sitting in circles looking at each other, dancing in freedom, doing the dervish, or with their eyes closed in a far-off place. They were GRATEFUL, and I do mean GRATEFUL for this band and its music. The whole scene, if you were genuinely into the music and vibe and not a looky-loo, was more of a community than a bunch of strangers with tickets. The community was alive and well all over the country regardless of there being any concert. The music was a medium of connection: something was conveyed, I would say on a spiritual level, that allowed complete strangers to feel belonging when randomly meeting at a gas station.
Truly, beyond all this, I constantly hear Grateful Dead musical phrasing used in rock bands, hard rock, pop, country, etc.
A lot of you will say, sounds like a bunch of hippie hooey. But many, many people had these same experiences. It doesn’t matter if you’re not “into it,’ the Grateful Dead have had a far-reaching impact in American society. And it was a collaboration with the people that loved them.
The truth about this band? It’s actually the people that count. Imagine that in this era of attention-grabbing egomaniacs….
July 5, 2015 @ 7:00 pm
Guns and Roses was a great band man. Also, it seems like you are judging this thing on longevity and touring stamina. And in those things The Dead can’t be beat. I’d argue that The Beach Boys, credence and Nirvana all had bigger impacts on the culture. Or at least on mainstream culture.
July 5, 2015 @ 7:19 pm
The thing about a band like Nirvana or some others, the cultural impact was big, but was so short lived. The Beach Boys and Credence influence had some serious legs though.
December 1, 2022 @ 6:01 pm
Cultural impact to be looked at from “global” perspective. What type of musical forms. constructs, innovative techniques, point of view, soul anthem from the bands have influenced music on a larger scale, politics, social beliefs? And how have they parlayed beyond the fan base and bled into other subsets of the larger culture? Longevity cannot not be discounted as a mighty force in these things. Not always necessary as in the case of a genius like Jimi Hendrix, but definitely a factor that does enhance influence/ impact.
July 5, 2015 @ 7:02 pm
Maybe I’m too young (mid 40s) but to me all I think of when it comes to the Grateful Dead is weirdly obsessed fans that could stand to take a bath and maybe spend a little time in rehab.
As for their music I can honestly say that I can’t name a single song or album by them while I could name many, many songs and albums by the other bands you mentioned.
Can you be the most important American band without having any memorable songs or albums?
July 5, 2015 @ 7:23 pm
I guess that all really depends on perspective. The Grateful Dead were not a radio band, and never were. But the people that did listen to them, that was pretty much all they listened to.
July 5, 2015 @ 7:28 pm
I guess what it comes down to is what is more impactful a wider base of fans or a stronger core of fans.
Admittedly I have never given this topic much thought before now but I think I would go with the Beach Boys because they also have longevity while having a wider cultural impact and for my money ‘Pet Sounds’ is one of the greatest albums ever recorded and ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ is near musical perfection.
July 5, 2015 @ 7:39 pm
The Beach Boys were the other name I kept coming to when pondering this question. I think a fair case can be made for them.
July 6, 2015 @ 4:50 pm
Actually, Trig, GD songs (e.g. Candyman) were played on AM radio when I was a kid.
I’ll bet you’re too young to remember AM radio.
And then they lost radio playtime and became an afterthought to the musical scene until Touch of Grey and then Jerry’s death in 1995.
August 31, 2019 @ 1:17 pm
I heard the GD on the radio all the time. Am and FM. The fan base was wide open. Anyone from CEO’s of big corporations to the homeless. Family’s brought their kids. It was always a peaceful gathering before and after the show’s.
The music came alive and connected people of all backgrounds. The sad thing was the over indulging in street drugs. The music was uplifting and folk. Easily followed by all ages.
I have to say that no other band can top or compare to what GD was all about.
April 21, 2018 @ 7:14 am
Way off. Listening to The Dead inspires pwople to explore & appreciate all kinds of music, (so does acid). Deadheads listen to everything. The Grateful Dead spawned a culture of innovation in the music world & beyond.
May 15, 2021 @ 4:35 am
Stereotypes are for ignorant idiots
December 1, 2022 @ 6:06 pm
Can a secret service agent alter the course of history without you knowing he exists? Absolutely.
July 5, 2015 @ 7:08 pm
A compelling case for the Grateful Dead. I think you covered it pretty thoroughly. Other later bands may have inspired or influenced cultural shifts, but the Dead were the first to do it. Those original Woodstock fans are now in their late 60s, 70s. How’s that for longevity?
ps…I wonder how many readers know what the Kool Aid tests were.
July 5, 2015 @ 7:21 pm
Their versions of Marty Robbins “El Paso” Hag’s “Mama Tried”, and Cash’s “Big River” along with the original Old and In the Way vinyl (with Vassar Clements’s fiddle), stopped out on the path Gram Parsons started, bring old school country fresh breath, proving its timelessness and ability to “evolve” while staying true to both their musical character AND the songs’.
Their concerts were, despite the busts for various pharmaceutical indiscretions, notable for being relatively peaceful, and for allowing (and even setting aside an area for) the amateur recordist~ bootleggers~ provided they traded tapes for tapes.
Having been to a few here in Atlanta, there’s a lot the big venue shows today, (and even your unfortunate experience this weekend, Trig), could learn from.
Thanks for sharing this story~ folks like you help make sure “the music~ never~ stops…”
July 5, 2015 @ 7:25 pm
That should’ve read”STEPPED out on the path Gram Parsons started…”
July 5, 2015 @ 7:52 pm
Yes. They are absolutely the most important American music group of all time. Despite being an absolute diehard Country-Western fan the Grateful Dead are tied for my all-time favorite band and you make a very good case for why they are the most important. Great article, Trig. In their own way they were partially a country band. They did stellar covers of many country songs especially their take on “Sing Me Back Home” and I’ve said many times that “Friend Of The Devil” is the most underrated country song of all time.
July 5, 2015 @ 7:59 pm
Ditto on “Friend of the Devil” ~ and Lyle Lovett’s cover on the tribute album “Dedicated “is not to be missed.
July 5, 2015 @ 8:05 pm
Longtime readers will vouch that I’m already on record saying “Friend of the Devil” is my favorite song of all time.
July 6, 2015 @ 12:15 am
That’s a damn good song.
“American Beauty” is one of my favorite albums, regardless of genre, of all time.
July 6, 2015 @ 2:08 am
Interesting. When I try to pick a favorite I always end coming back to Ray Charles recording of the Rodgers and Hammerstein song “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” from Oklahoma, Ray just takes it places you didn’t think the song could go being from a musical.
frank the tank
July 7, 2015 @ 1:18 pm
Until reading this article and the comments, the only Grateful Dead song I could name was Truckin’ (and that’s only from hearing the excellent Dwight Yoakam cover on the Reprise Please Baby box set). I just listened to “Friend of the Devil” on YouTube and it was very good. This led me to the Grateful Dead’s version of “Whiskey in the Jar,” which was incredible! I now know that this is a traditional Irish song, but prior to today, the only version of this song that I had heard was Metallica’s (which is also excellent in my opinion).
July 6, 2015 @ 4:51 pm
Word, amigo, they are the most important band.
July 5, 2015 @ 8:09 pm
Interesting argument but my feeling is that no band has ever been the Most Important for more than a few months or years at a time. It’s all down to individual experience. The Dead peaked for me with Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty, after that I couldn’t care less. For my personal musical development, Ray Charles was the Most Important for a short while, as was Gram Parsons, as was Joe Ely, as was Bobby Charles, as was Townes Van Zandt – whoops just realized that I’m taking about individuals not bands and now I cannot think of a single band that I’d call truly important and that includes CCR who helped me survive the late 60 and most of the 70s.
July 5, 2015 @ 8:13 pm
Great article! Hard to argue with your points, and it’s helps that the Dead are one of my favorite bands. In any case, their commitment to such a breadth of American genres from blues to country to folk rock to jazz, by itself is damn impressive. That and they arguably created an entire genre (“jam bands”) that (like them or not) have taken up or influenced a huge swath of contemporary musicians and songwriters, including bands like Sturgill Simpson.
July 5, 2015 @ 8:15 pm
Hard not to consider the Dead as being in the top tier of great American Bands. I do love their more rootsy stuff such as the Workingman’s Dead/American Beauty era and the live acoustic album Reckoning. Not a huge fan of their more psychedelic and trippy jamming stuff, myself.
The other band that can check many of the same boxes are the Allman Brothers Band. And they got quite the second wind when Warren Haynes and Allen Woody joined up with them around 1990. They put out three strong studio albums in the ’90s and another very good one in the early aughts. Some excellent live albums, too.
July 5, 2015 @ 8:45 pm
Allman Brothers Band. They were slipping my mind but they’d definitely be near the top of any list… Metallica and Slayer are both extremely influential and have had longevity. Megadeth as well with their influence on technical metal. All these bands still have cult followings though Metallica would be the only act that draws like the Dead. As for Nirvana, I like them but they were the worst of the Big Four Seattle Bands and hair metal was checking out with or without them. GNR would be high on the list as well simply for how perfect “Appetite…” was/is. And Pantera influenced heavy metal greatly as well. Van Halen isn’t my thing but Eddie’s guitar playing has influenced so many players that they’d have to be high on anyone’s list and their following is still huge. But all this said, considering how many Grateful Dead shirts you see – even though many people wearing them don’t know the bands music – they certainly deserve to be in the discussion.
July 6, 2015 @ 3:46 am
The Allman Brothers Band is one of those bands that, as much as they obviously deserve immense respect and recognition, wouldn’t rate in the top tier of most important American bands because in my eyes, much like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Credence Clearwater Revival, their appeal is more regional compared to other names being considered who remain influential to the United States as a whole.
Slayer is undoubtedly an important band to heavy metal as a whole, but I just don’t feel like they’re contenders when considering the single most important American bands as a whole. They’re really unsung heroes when you think about it, compared to Metallica, who are heavy metal’s commercial behemoth.
With Metallica, they definitely deserve at least an honorable mention, though I think their latter career releases haven’t been all that kind to them. Most fans would probably tell you “The Black Album” was their last truly great album, but you’d also find a lot of outspoken purists who lash out at them having “sold out” with that album and would insist “…And Justice For All” was their actual last great album. So I’d say their first five albums single-handedly make them a force to be reckoned with, but their latter career efforts may have taken them down a peg or two.
Nirvana wouldn’t even make my Honorable Mentions list. I personally thought “In Utero” was their best album, but it seems “Nevermind” is the only album that’s ever cited among the vast majority these days. It just seems that album stands out as more important than the band itself……………..and when that happens, I fail to see how I could rate a band itself as among the most important.
Same with Guns N Roses. Most listeners remember them solely by “Appetite For Destruction” and a couple other singles, while completely overlooking the “Use Your Illusion” era. Axl Rose undoubtedly has talent on his own, but I think his infamous antics on and off the stage over the past twenty years have tarnished the band’s legacy considerably.
It’s interesting how, as ridiculously successful as Van Halen has been over the years, how I nonetheless almost never hear their name cited when it comes to legacy and cultural influence in recent years. It’s as though they were monumental back in the day, but are kind of an afterthought now. I actually hear David Lee Roth name-dropped more than the band itself these days.
July 6, 2015 @ 6:20 am
Van Halen’s songs are vapid and lack the depth and seriousness to make them memorable. I like Van Halen, and I am especially awed by Eddie’s guitar abilities. Its almost as if he created a new instrument. But, the songs are C+, at best.
July 6, 2015 @ 10:32 am
Which is why The Smithsonian featured Eddie Van Halen in its “What is Means to be an American Series”. His contribution to guitar design and playing style were monumental. Regarding pure American rock and roll, Aerosmith’s Rocks was an enormous inspiration for many bands that followed (i.e. Guns & Roses).
July 6, 2015 @ 1:22 pm
If Metallica hasn’t released a great album since #s 4 or 5 they fit right in with every other all-time great band. Sabbath, in my mind peaked with their 6th and Zeppelin with their 4th… Most bands peak and breakup. I commend Metallica for not trying to rewrite the Black album and moving toward a more bluesy direction with Load, though I know many feel that period was where they really “sold out”. Just while typing this another cult band with a great discography came to mind – Tool.
July 7, 2015 @ 6:56 am
On your Zepplin comment, personally i thought Houses of the Holy matched ZOSO and Physical Graffiti eclipsed both in almost every way imaginable. i would argue for Physical Graffiti as one of the five greatest albums of all time (I would include Back in Black and Appetite for Destruction as two of the others).
July 7, 2015 @ 7:04 am
Nadia, i find your comments almost always reflect my thoughts (so you must be right!). G’n’R sprang to mind on this thread, but although they have been a favorite for 20 years, the output and longevity cut against them in this debate. i do think UYI I&II were as equally great as Appetite, but as a band they were like a brief explosion versus someone like the dead, skynyrd, tom petty and the heartbreakers that all made consistently great albums over a long period of time. I would not consider Nirvana (or even Pearl Jam, who i much prefer of the two), because they really didn’t have the songs. Much like the Sex Pistols, to me they seemed like more of a statement or a scene than a band. i doubt there will ever be a resurgence of the grunge sound, but rock and roll like G’n’R played will always return.
July 5, 2015 @ 8:35 pm
in terms of cult following, I would say Jimmy Buffet is close to being equal to the dead. kiss had their own army back in the 70s, albeit made up of teenagers and preteens. I would say that Lynard Skynard had as much influence as the Dead, and the Stones had way more influence. I only know the song truckin by the dead, which I do not like. I would consider the dead a novelty band at best. A conversation about most important musicians that does not mention Johnny Cash really is no conversation.
July 5, 2015 @ 8:56 pm
Even though this dÃ©bate is focused on American bands, I absolutely agree he is among the most Influential American entertainers of all time.
Interestingly enough, Jimmy Buffett has also had very limited commercial success throughout his career. In fact, some of his songs regarded as classic now didn’t even chart in their initial commercial runs.
July 6, 2015 @ 2:20 am
I would concur about including Buffett in this conversation, but I would ads that Buffett’s played Dead songs (“Scarlet Begonias “), but I don’t think the Dead ever played a Buffett song.(Don’t know if that makes or breaks the argument, tho…)
July 5, 2015 @ 8:37 pm
The Beach Boys are thÃ© most Influential American band in history, in my view, for this reason.
In addition to their commercial successes, they inspired Ã lasting sub-culture surrounding their music. They basically epitomized your summer soundtrack along with Sly & the Family Stone. Then, when it seemed they had plateaued, Brian Wilson wrote “Pet Sounds” and proved they could challenge themselves with their music and more melancholic thÃ¨mes too. I still hear plenty of pop acts cite them as influences to this day.
But Grateful Dead and The Eagles would do a cage match for thÃ© #2 Most Influential American Band honor, easily.
CrÃ©dence Clearwater Revival deserve an honorable mention, but I’d say their success is a little more regional than the aforementioned names as is Lynyrd Skynyrd. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers would rank #4 I believe.
July 5, 2015 @ 8:51 pm
I’d also give an honorable mention to R.E.M.
College rock and alternative have R.E M. in large part to thank for making both of them viable in thÃ© mainstream from the late 80s onward. I’d dare argue if we were making Ã more complÃ¨te listing, R.E.M. would rate above Nirvana and Pearl Jam in thÃ© eyes of most music historians (even despite a string of inconsistent late 90s-00s albums) when it comes to importance.
April 12, 2016 @ 3:25 am
I agree with Nadia. R.E.M legacy will last forever. They’re mainstream but at the same time they’re also underrated. And remember R.E.M are the architect of alternative-rock. They started from the bottom. One of the pioneer indie scene in America. But influence many great bands such as Radiohead, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Sonic Youth, Pavement, Sonic Youth, U2 and many more pop-rock/alternative/indie-rock and today’s bands.. Clearly, their influence is much wider than The Dead. They’re maybe disbanded by now. But there’s always a chance to get a reunion since the original member still alive and well.
July 5, 2015 @ 11:53 pm
Noah, is that you?
July 6, 2015 @ 12:02 am
I explained in a reply in the Easton Corbin’s “About To Get Real” thread why I’ve decided to go by my chosen name as a transgender female from this point forward, as well as why I was going by my given name beforehand (mostly out of the concern of having too many thread discussions digress toward me being transgender, but realizing over time that is silly and I just need to speak and address myself as what is true to me) =)
EDIT: Ooooops, I forgot to make the change to my name on my laptop just now as I was posting this reply (I made my earlier comment on my Samsung phone! =P
July 6, 2015 @ 12:11 am
No matter what name or gender identity you choose, just know that you have my full support 🙂
July 6, 2015 @ 12:12 am
Thanks sooooooooooo much! =D
July 5, 2015 @ 9:21 pm
When I sang “Friend of the Devil” the other night, had the honky-Tonk crowd swooning. Shall always be an Allmaniac/Deadhead unto the Beyond…the best postwar America’s offered for a shared folkway. And I wish I’d been @ the Acid Test in Watts!
July 5, 2015 @ 10:48 pm
I’ve had the exact discussion with my friends that are music buffs. For me, my vote was Skynyrd. Yes, they were gone too soon, but their impact was monstrous. You still hear their songs constantly today and people still wear their shirts. You see bumper stickers and there are plenty of mimic bands out there. Pearl Jam, while I’m not a fan, certainly is near the top of the list. Van Halen, too. I think Creedence would’ve been the same way if they would’ve made it. Grateful Dead was legendary, but it was just a cult following type of deal. More of an experience, which is fine. GD have their musical place in history but nowhere near the most important.
July 5, 2015 @ 11:10 pm
You make a compelling case for Lynyrd Skynyrd………………and while I agree they are among the most influential American bands, here’s where I would somewhat disagree with you (and the reason is depressing! =( ).
Before that terrible plane crash in 1977, Lynyrd Skynyrd were at their peak of popularity. There’s absolutely no doubt about that. “Street Survivors” went double platinum and “What’s Your Name” became their second-biggest career hit (behind the obvious “Sweet Home Alabama”). But it understandably just left everyone who survived shook up and they went on hiatus for a decade. Then, they returned………….and while they’ve been fairly prolific since then……………..I’m sorry, but the post-1977 incarnation has put out a lot of mediocre, disposable material that falls painfully short of their former quality. I especially remember listening to “Vicious Cycle” and by the end felt depressed by how much they plunged from their heightday with so many songs that shamelessly pandered to drinking and jingoism.
Lynyrd Skynyrd post-1977 has just felt more like a facsimile of the band than continuing where they left off. I’ve just rarely heard a lot of soul in this incarnation like I did beforehand. Which is depressing admitting, because who knows what would have happened if that absolute heartbreak never transpired or was averted? Instead, we have a band that was great, but then became painfully mediocre upon regrouping much like Jefferson Airplane in its later incarnations! =(
July 6, 2015 @ 6:56 am
I must be too cynical to get into a discussion like this. I’m always too taken aback by the bands that have mostly maintained their popularity due to a tragedy at some point that forever fractured the band. In this way, I think music is like love: one needs closure. With bands like Skynyrd and Nirvana, there was none because of what happened (which is also indicative of the whole grunge scene, which was self-destructive). As such, it leaves a bunch of fans in the lurch and pining for the good old days, which breeds second, third and further generation fans that only hear the party line and never any criticism, as it suddenly becomes in poor taste.
And how is Lynyrd Skynyrd’s appeal not regional, but Creedence’s is?
July 6, 2015 @ 9:40 am
My issue with Skynyrd is that the musical landscape had already been laid by other more important bands by the time they got going, including by the Grateful Dead. The extended jam on “Free Bird” may have never been possible in popular music if it weren’t for the Dead, and the Dead opened a lot of doors for The Allman Brother’s improvisational sets as well, both directly in the California scene, and indirectly with the influence in their music. But again, The Grateful Dead met their commercial success in the 90’s when Skynyrd was basically a tribute act.
I positively love Skynyrd and definitely think they are worth considering in the argument. But I think they fall short in regards to influence, though they certain best the Grateful Dead with hits and commercial appeal.
July 6, 2015 @ 10:31 am
Good point, and also good to see mention of the Allman Brothers. I’d also like to add to my talkdown of Skynyrd that there’s a subtle, but nonetheless present, difference between popularity and influence. They’re a part of the public mindset, sure, but music that is openly influenced by their style and mission is rare these days.
Same goes for Nirvana, once again. That band, particularly Kurt Cobain, is extremely popular. However, it seems more associational than influential. After all, if you like the “fuck everybody” band you’re suddenly “cool.” The fact that there are Nirvana t-shirts at every department store known to man and Cobain was featured as a possible performer in the video game Guitar Hero 5 a few years ago says it all. These “fans” don’t understand nor appreciate who Cobain was or what he set out to accomplish with his music. He’s not an influential personality so much as a popular one.
You could make a similar case for Skynyrd: they were one of the first bands/musicians to injected that almost arrogant sense of Southern pride into their music. The “redneck and proud” mantra that is so popular in bro-country. However, whereas Skynyrd was simply proud of their roots, as we all know the laundry list lyrics of today are smoke and mirrors. In addition, I always felt like Skynyrd had some sort of class, whereas a lot of that “redneck and proud” stuff comes across more like “white trash and proud” these days.
I don’t know. I can understand Skynyrd to an extent, but I weep for the day that a general consensus brands Nirvana the “greatest American band of all-time.” One wonders where they would be if Cobain hadn’t killed himself and forever launched his legacy into the stratosphere of transcendent “genius.” Even though it’s a bit unfair, I think bands that ended due to tragedy shouldn’t be considered. It’s the ones that endure, that keep on going despite hardship and stylistic shifts and culture wars, that are the true pioneers.
July 6, 2015 @ 11:25 am
I think there was more of a wit and soul to Lynyrd Skynyrd pre-1978 in terms of their songwriting and craftsmanship. Southern pride was definitely integral to their definitive work, but it was done in a way that generally transcended cliche and the musicianship was top-notch.
From 1987 onward, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s songwriting has been absolutely painful listening to, overall, in how much they’ve drowned in cliches. Seriously: they’ve been no better than your run-of-the-mill corporate country laundry list-songwriting. Songs like “That’s How I Like It”, “G.W.T.G.G.”, “Pick ‘Em Up” and “Homegrown” almost glimpse bro-country later on down the line. Or generic songs about their band roaring into your town that would be just as awful as one of Jason Aldean’s inane rockers like “Rockin’ Little Town” and “Skynyrd Nation”, or absolutely lame attempts at social commentary that just ring hollow like “All Funked Up”.
In contrast, the Allman Brothers Band had never pandered like Lynyrd Skynyrd have. The former has always been more influenced by jam bands like the Grateful Dead to begin with, but their songwriting was also very descriptive and had fresh narration and perspective.
July 8, 2015 @ 7:20 pm
Skynyrd is basically a religion in the southeast
July 5, 2015 @ 11:10 pm
The Beach Boys.
July 6, 2015 @ 12:16 am
Country music sucks about as much as Widespread Panic…
July 6, 2015 @ 12:34 am
the Beastie Boys. and i dont wanna hear no shit about Run DMC and LL Cool J. the Beasties made rap okay for whitey and commercially viable. if Licensed To Ill never happens, hip hop would of quietly went away like the lame ass disco music they were originally rapping over.
July 6, 2015 @ 12:46 am
Good call! I knew I was forgetting someone, and feel bad they didn’t cross my mind earlier! -__-
Beastie Boys are definitely somewhere in the Top Ten, and I actually scratch what I said earlier about Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers coming in at #4 on my list. I think the Beastie Boys edge Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers there when it comes to cultural importance (not at all diminishing Petty’s immense contributions, surely)
There will never be a group like them again. They never released a mediocre-or-worse album, and are also among the most relevant American bands to have influenced artists on an international scale too…………….not just in hip-hop but in alternative music and even pop music.
July 6, 2015 @ 6:18 am
I think the Beastie Boys deserve to be in the discussion, especially if we’re going to include rap/hip-hop bands which is only fair.
July 6, 2015 @ 1:30 am
If Don Henley’s solo contributions are counted, then the Eagles certainly win this category. Henley’s string of hits in the 80s was simply impressive.
July 6, 2015 @ 8:18 am
if we are counting solo contributions, then we gotta count joe walsh and glenn freys contributions as well, then the eagles would most definitely be number 1.
July 6, 2015 @ 1:37 am
Another strike in favor of the Eagles: they built a far stronger fan base in the country genre than any of the other bands on the list.
I would also add Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band for their long-term impact. “Born in the USA” remains one of the most culturally resonant songs today, and Springsteen and his band are the #1 go-to rock legends for award shows and benefit concerts.
July 6, 2015 @ 3:07 am
Bruce Springsteen would be a strong contender among the Top Ten Most Important American Entertainers of all-time to me, though I wouldn’t say Top Five.
Elvis Presley would certainly have to be regarded as #1 in my eyes (personally, I have never cared for his music as much as other legendary acts, but his influence and appeal is undeniable). Bob Dylan would be #2 (though I can see how one can easily make a case Woody Guthrie is actually the more “important” name) and I’d argue Louis Armstrong is #3. Johnny Cash would follow close behind and Aretha Franklin would probably close the Top Five.
After that, it gets rather complicated. “Importance” will diverge in meaning from person to person. On one hand, you have the legendary entertainers James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and Michael Jackson who obviously deserve great recognition here and who have obviously influenced a ridiculous number of artists. Yet, on the other hand, you could think outside the box of show business and argue there were ever more artistic and innovative names that have influenced the whole of American music behind the curtain that are kind of unsung heroes: including George Gershwin, Stephen Foster, Lowell Mason, Billie Holiday and Frank Zappa. And even still, you have names that are in-between like Chuck Berry who obviously was a true innovator.
If you’re gauging “importance” heavily on some degree of name recognition and stage presence, then Bruce Springsteen would probably squeak toward the bottom of the Top Ten in my view. Here’s how I’d rank the Top Ten Most Important/Influential American Entertainers of All-Time:
1: Elvis Presley
2: Bob Dylan
3: Louis Armstrong
4: Johnny Cash
5: Aretha Franklin
6: Michael Jackson
7: James Brown
8: Chuck Berry
9: Bruce Springsteen
10: Robert Johnson
But if we were approaching this outside of the show business box, my thoughts shift remarkably and I’d consider George Gershwin, Lowell Mason, Stephen Foster and probably Duke Ellington and Scott Joplin top candidates. Possibly Lou Reed sneaks in there behind them.
July 6, 2015 @ 3:58 am
If we include solo singers, the range of possible candidates expands dramatically. This is the one issue that I had in arguing for Springsteen: should he be considered a soloist or a part of the E Street Band?
July 6, 2015 @ 7:02 am
Definitely solo. I’d say that most casual listeners that aren’t Springsteen aficionados don’t even know his band is considered a separate entity on the bill. Same with Merle Haggard and the Strangers.
July 6, 2015 @ 8:15 am
I agree with Acca Dacca. All of his albums have his name and his name only on them. Also, he was the sole songwriter for all original songs. Little Steven is a fine songwriter in his own right, but you won’t find any co-writes with Bruce among Bruce’s albums. Also, until Nils Lofgren joined, Bruce was the main lead guitar player in the band. You can contrast this with Tom Petty and the Heatbreakers. Petty is definitely the front man and the primary songwriter, but there were many co-writes with Mike Campbell and Campbell has always been his right hand man.
July 6, 2015 @ 10:59 am
When I put this together (I don’t think of myself as any expert whatsoever, mind you, this is just my take), I was solely thinking individual “entertainers” as opposed to “bands”.
But, I’d be inclined to think even if I did include bands, the Top Ten would remain stagnant, arguably. I think Robert Johnson’s contributions to American music and culture at large are arguably more important and crucial than those of the Beach Boys
July 6, 2015 @ 11:35 am
Robert Johnson is the best! But if we’re talking influential, I would say Leadbelly was more influential, especially across genres, than was Johnson.
July 6, 2015 @ 6:51 am
This list of solo singers seems to be saying that when it comes to outsized cultural impact, the U.S. really isn’t about bands after all, right?
Take away sales and the most *influential* U.S. bands: Velvet Underground/Stooges. Ramones. REM.
Greatest U.S. band: The Replacements (closest thing ever to the U.S. Rolling Stones).
July 30, 2022 @ 11:24 am
Your final list is pretty solid. But what about the Beatles, and the members as individuals?! The Smith’s, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, and Neil Young – all important. A really accurate way to rank most influential would be to research what artists have the most covers. These kind of lists are pretty much impossible. I totally concur about nirvana though. But the Eagles really suck bro.
July 6, 2015 @ 1:51 am
I agree the cultural impact of the Dead is impossible to ignore.
But if I was playing favorites Linda Ronstadt would win it for me all but four of her albums went multi-platinum she put some very well know song-writers on the map and worked with any one worth working with. She did jazz, blues, latin, country, pop and managed to dodge disco. She recorded two of the seminal female “go to hell” anthems… “You’re No Good” and “Different Drum”. She didn’t care much about awards and honors and even forgot a Grammy in the backseat of a rental car! For her it was always about the music.
July 6, 2015 @ 1:58 am
But in my top ten Ray Charles, Prince, The Talking Heads, CCR, Stevie Wonder, Duke Ellington, Carole King, B.B. King, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash
July 30, 2022 @ 11:28 am
Great choices!! I completely agree with most of those, but I think the Beatles and Pink Floyd should be on the list, and the smith’s, or something represents the new wave 80’s genre, the cure or New Order. Talking heads could suffice.
July 6, 2015 @ 3:18 am
I love Linda Ronstadt and pretty much all her music. She and Nanci Griffith are criminally underrated in my eyes even despite a relative lull during the 80s, Ronstadt’s countless Platinum certifications and Grammy Awards because I rarely hear her name surface when it comes to cultural influence.
I know almost everyone will cite “Heart Like A Wheel” as her definitive album, but I personally think “Winter Light” spoke the most to me. Her duet album with Emmylou Harris, “Western Wall”, is brilliant too.
July 6, 2015 @ 1:16 pm
All interesting choices. Indeed Ronstadt is the gold standard for female performers in the rock and roll era. Whether in honky tonk clubs or arenas, rock, country ,rancheras or pre war standards she just grabbed the mike, let the band rip and sang her heart out. Great players swarmed around her for decades. Neil Young, Keith Richards, Rosemary Clooney, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Merle Haggard,Philp Glass,Placido Domingo,among so many diverse others, celebrated and voiced their amazement at her pure natural flexible voice. No vanity in that gorgeous set of pipes. Brought so much music to us that one otherwise would not have discovered. Fame seemed to be a drag , so she walked away from celebrity by choice. Yeah she was a doll to look at as well. No one else like her.
July 6, 2015 @ 4:14 am
Honestly, I’m surprised by all the Beach Boys love, I’ve never been much of a fan, nor would I have considered them anywhere near groups like Aerosmith and Van Halen. I mean they have nothing in common so it’s unfair to try and compare them, but they just never struck me as a particularly remarkable band. But as for the Grateful Dead, I wouldn’t consider them “the greatest” anything, but the variety of material they covered, and the stylistic liberties they took, I would certainly say they’ve been responsible for, either as a band or individuals, some fantastic material.
Six String Richie
July 6, 2015 @ 8:17 am
I think the love comes from the “Pet Sounds” album, which is often considered to be the best album ever by an American band. Brian Wilson was a great writer and his knack for melodies may be unmatched. The band had some of the best vocal harmonies in history as well. They also found major success in different decades and continue to play shows to big crowds. Not many ’60s bands are still touring to as big crowds as The Beach Boys.
July 6, 2015 @ 9:14 am
What you said about the Beach Boys ,Six String . AND the fact that their music has a timelessness that transcends musical trends and generations . There’s an undefinable vibe about Beach Boy / Brian Wilson music…an emotional earmark , a focus , a ‘knowing’ that most bands try to discover in themselves but few have done as successfully .
July 6, 2015 @ 5:20 am
Even though music is of course not a competition, the question of the most important American band is an interesting discussion. I’ve never realized until now that US musicians with the biggest impact have mostly been solo artists – Elvis, Dylan, Springsteen, James Browne, Johnny Cash…
Regarding the Grateful Dead, i think where they are missing out is international impact. They hardly register over here in Europe.
I guess I’d go for the Beach Boys, too. But then, their phase of greatness (I’d say “Pet Sounds” to “Surf’s Up”) did not really last that long. Their beginnings were pure pop, nice enough, but not really important. And the horrific late stuff they did without Brian Wilson should get them deductions. (I shudder at the thought of “Kokomo”.)
My outside choice goes to The Velvet Underground. Although they had no commercial success at the time, their global influence has proven to be massive.
July 6, 2015 @ 9:44 am
I think the Grateful Dead had a huge impact in Europe in the 70’s, and their live ’72 double album is arguably their best live album ever.
However in the 90’s and beyond, the Dead’s appeal in Europe may have fallen off simply because the groups touring apparatus was so involved, they really didn’t have the ability to play many tours outside the US. They were a United States band for sure.
I agree with your point though that we can’t just take into consideration the US perspective when having this discussion.
July 6, 2015 @ 5:41 am
I like to think about who the greatest American rock band of all time is. My answer has always been Lynyrd Skynyrd. When you get down to the nuts and bolts, they are head and shoulders better than most other American rock bands. They have the classic songs, fanbase, and the story of their rise and fall is almost mythological by now. Listen to “Gold and Platinum” and tell me that their is a better rock band from America. IMO, no one, not the Eagles, not REM, not Nirvana, not Bruce, not even the dead are better than Skynyrd.
July 6, 2015 @ 9:04 am
To me, what makes Lynyrd Skynyrd stand out are (1) just how many quality songs they had, (2) what a well oiled machine they were as a band, and (3) the gravitas of Ronnie Van Zant. I do love the Allman Brothers, but I would put Skynyrd ahead of them in the songwriting category. And by songs, I mean music with words. The Allmans had some great blues covers and instrumental jams and also some great original songs, but Skynyrd seemed to be all about servicing the songs.
Overall, I would personally would take Bruce’s work over his first six albums (Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ through Nebraska) over Skynyrd’s work over their six studio albums (I’m including the Muscle Shoals album), but it’s a very fair fight.
July 6, 2015 @ 6:23 am
Great article, Trig! I think the Dead have a strong case to be in this contention…at the very least the Grateful Dead started a musical movement that’s been carried out and continued to this day by the likes of Phish and Dave Matthews Band. Are they the most important American band of all time? Maybe, but I think it’s clear that you can’t answer the question without at least considering the Grateful Dead as an answer.
Also, their two 1970 albums in ‘AMERICAN BEAUTY’ and ‘WORKINGMAN’S DEAD’ are gems! I know they weren’t radio darlings or all that focused on the studio as opposed to the stage, but those two albums are two of the best.
July 6, 2015 @ 6:29 am
I won’t bore you with my personal feelings about the Grateful Dead’s cultural impact. They do have some great songs and Jerry was an interesting guitar player. I also like some of the New Riders-era stuff. If “most important” means that they had the greatest influence as a BAND, then the Dead are certainly up there. In terms of individuals, then Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers are, hands down, the most important to American music. It is interesting that the most influential bands, The Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, Who, are all British bands imitating American music. The greatest American band was pre-crash Lynyrd Skynyrd. I don’t consider their music since Ronnie Van Zant died to be the same band,.
Holding all the roses
July 6, 2015 @ 6:37 am
I saw both dead shows Saturday and yesterday, “tv” liked Saturdays playlist better. Which bands do I think are as important as the dead, The Band, Skynyrd, Beach boys, my 2 cents cheers.
Six String Richie
July 6, 2015 @ 8:12 am
I think you could argue the Beach Boys may be the most important. “Pet Sounds” may be the most acclaimed and important album by an American band. They stayed relevant for several decades, even scoring a #1 hit in the ’80s. They still bring in big crowds when they tour and Brian Wilson is widely considered to be a musical genius.
July 6, 2015 @ 8:15 am
Actually, if we are talking about influence and impact. Bill Monroe an the Bluegrass Boys heavily influenced the music and harmonies of The Everly Brothers. Who’s music and harmonies heavily influenced The Beatles. The rest is history.
July 6, 2015 @ 10:23 am
Yep, and don’t forget The Carter Family.
July 6, 2015 @ 8:22 am
this is an interesting subject with tons of valid viewpoints coming from all angles. I would like to see a follow up thread, most influential song. That would be a hard one to quantify, but I would have to give my vote to house of the rising sun, or stairway to heaven. house because of the gamut of excellent musicians who have recorded it and stairway because of the impact it has had in the last forty years.
July 6, 2015 @ 9:01 am
They were the band that best leveraged their appearance at Woodstock–I’ll give them that.
But speaking of leverage, Nirvana turned an entire industry inside out. Grunge was more pervasive in its time than the Beach Boys’ surf music was in its time, even.
So yeah, it’s tough to give the ‘Most Important’ sticker to a band that only sits on 2 of the three legs of the stool that is ‘modern’ music–albums (check), tours (BIG check), radio (bzzzzzz).
July 6, 2015 @ 9:49 am
The Dead’s set at Woodstock was historically awful, and Jerry Garcia was the first to admit that. Their appearance at Woodstock happened when the band’s influence was falling in the music world. They were wildly influential ’65-’67, and then in 1970, but ’69 was sort of a transition year for them. They were trying to find their legs. Yes they’re synonymous with hippies, but overall I think bands like Crosby, Still, and Nash, and Ten Years After received the biggest Woodstock boost. The Grateful Dead was more of an “also ran.” But they were there.
July 6, 2015 @ 9:02 am
The Dead certainly had an undeniably successful career as a band and an enormous and loyal fan base . How big an influence they were on other bands musically I’m not sure . I believe other American bands may have been more influential to professional musicians and players ( Eagles , Beach Boys , Buck’s Bakersfield sound , CSN etc. . ) .
I was not a fan and couldn’t name 3 Grateful Dead songs at gunpoint . However your article was revelatory to say the least ,Trigger .
July 6, 2015 @ 10:21 am
Wow, no mention of The Carter Family in the article or these 70 comments. That is quite surprising!
July 6, 2015 @ 10:45 am
I cried last night when they played “attics of my life”. Thanks for the ride boys!
Up in Smoke
July 6, 2015 @ 12:00 pm
I wanted to hear box of rain, and brown eyed women, they played brown eyed Friday, my luck I purchased the Saturday and Sunday shows, lol.
July 6, 2015 @ 10:59 am
“There were many bands of the psychedelic era that had bigger hits, were more popular, or sold more records. But the Grateful Dead is where it all began.”
This is just completely wrong. The dead were not a psychedelic band at all.
I was around in those days, listening to the dead, and going to see /hear
Jimi Hendrix, who is absolutely without question the originator and epitome of psychedelic music. and it’s greatest player/singer/writer.
Hendrix was the person that first used a guitar and an overdriven Marshall amp to make music that nobody had ever even remotely thought of or heard before him.
July 6, 2015 @ 11:47 am
Man, I have to respectfully disagree Mark. I guess it’s just a difference in perspective. Jimi was retooling in the UK while Jerry was playing music for Ken Kesey. I’ve never considered Hendrix having music original influence on the psychedelic movement, though he was certainly a poster boy for it later on.
Toby in AK
July 6, 2015 @ 11:04 am
You certainly make a good case. I guess it depends on how you define importance, how to weigh in the different factors. Grateful Dead are among the best with longevity and touring, but the other factors people might consider I think they fall far short.
Some other names for consideration
James Brown and the JB’s
The Temptations (probably more of a singing group)
July 6, 2015 @ 12:17 pm
Trigger, I wonder if you’d indulge me and read an article or two from another music website (also something of a blog) that I frequent? The writer’s name is George Starostin, and he offers a similar career overview (as introductions) for the hundreds of rock & roll artists he covers. He was none too impressed with the Grateful Dead, nor the Eagles either (it should be noted that he is Russian, but writes fluent English).
Grateful Dead: http://starling.rinet.ru/music/dead.htm
His newer site, powered by Blogger, where he hasn’t yet gotten to the Dead yet: http://only-solitaire.blogspot.com/ (However, that’s just for reference. As I said, I’m mainly curious about your take on his initial assessments of the Dead and Eagles if you feel the need to read them).
July 6, 2015 @ 12:31 pm
July 6, 2015 @ 2:47 pm
Ain’t nothin’ to fuck with.
July 6, 2015 @ 1:36 pm
If you truly want to address history, then the most important American bands off all-time are the groups Louis Armstrong recorded with as the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens. Those bands completely changed the face of jazz and American music. In terms of influence, no one else is close. What is so important about the Grateful Dead in comparison?
July 6, 2015 @ 2:02 pm
Sorry if anyone has raised this and I missed it in the comments, but I think one factor to be considered here is a band’s influence and general popularity outside of North America.
I’m from the UK and I think if you were to run a poll over here as to who the most important American band of all time were (providing there was an equal age range represented in the voting), the Grateful Dead would not be high in the list. They just didn’t have the same impact here as Nirvana, Guns ‘n Roses, The Eagles or even Metallica.
If I had to pick one though the Beach Boys would be far and away my choice. They were the US answer to The Beatles and their influence is still huge the world over.
July 6, 2015 @ 2:18 pm
What a silly question to ask… There were loads of American bands over the ages of major significance and importance. Which of them was the most important…ridiculous question to answer. I saw GD twice (and most of the above mentioned bands as well) but both times they were something many other bands could never have accomplished: they were fun to watch! For four hours each time!
July 6, 2015 @ 3:43 pm
Nearly impossible question to answer but an excellent question to ask
July 6, 2015 @ 4:12 pm
And a fun one to discuss!
timothy d fisher
July 6, 2015 @ 4:06 pm
I would have to agree with Rich
k, most “influential” Velvet Underground, Ramones
Six String Richie
July 6, 2015 @ 4:57 pm
Add Big Star and The Replacements to that list. Several of the most influential never attained widespread popularity. This also made them easy to copy from because nobody would go “hey, that sounds like (band name).”
Six String Richie
July 6, 2015 @ 4:55 pm
I think one of the greatest marks against Grateful Dead being the most influential band is that they only have a one Top 40 hit despite a 40-plus-year career. I know they aren’t a “singles band” and are known for their touring, but their lack of hit songs does hurt their reputation a bit because many people can’t even name one Dead song unless they are fans of the band.
July 6, 2015 @ 6:57 pm
I agree, that’s their biggest demerit. If they had just one or two decent hits in the classic era, it wouldn’t be a discussion point. But they didn’t. They just weren’t a radio band.
July 7, 2015 @ 6:52 am
Top 40 hits, maybe, but when i was growing up they were all over FM radio all the time. Friend of the Devil, Truckin, Sugar Magnolia, Scarlet Begonias, Shakedown Street, Fire on the Mountain, Ripple, Uncle John, Casey Jones, just to name a few. The Dead are not that high on my list of favorites, although i do enjoy them, but to say they had no hits clearly ignores FM airplay. …and most of the top 40 hit makers are forgotten now, but the aforementioned songs still get played regularly. a song with legs like that is more of a hit to me.
July 7, 2015 @ 7:07 am
Not to mention Touch of Grey, Cumberland Blues, Bertha, Box of Rain, Operator, US Blues, Playing in the Band, their cover of Good Lovin’, etc.
July 7, 2015 @ 7:37 am
I loved their cover of Good Lovin’. I am pretty sure true deadheads would laugh at me for that, but i thought it was one of their best songs.
July 7, 2015 @ 8:17 am
Well, they would probably laugh at me for loving their play-it -straight versions of Mama Tried and The Race is On. They introduced me to both of those songs.
Speaking of Bertha, Good Lovin’ and great American bands…
One of my all time favorite American rock bands is Los Lobos. I have seen them do a great version of Bertha. Also, they do a medley of La Bamba and Good Lovin’ that totally works. Their latest live album (Disconnected in NYC) has both songs on it.
July 6, 2015 @ 5:01 pm
Great article, Trig – everything you said in it needed to be said.
Their early embrace of country music, at a time when it was not regarded as “cool”, stands as testimony to their adherance to art and not to popularity.
They were not alone (e.g. Gram and the Band, to name a couple).
And their continuing to play far after their initial, very limited commercial successes, reflects their personal commitment.
They felt like they had a responsibility to their road crew and other employees (in contrast, apparently, to Toby Keith).
I remember seeing Jerry being interviewed on 60 Minutes shortly before he died and the interviewer was shocked that the GD had a separate part of the spacing for “tapers” and that they permitte vendors to sell bootleg shirts.
Jerry told him that it must be working since they were the top grossing tour band that year.
I sure wish that I had been able to go to Soldier Field for the send-off shows, but I am recovering from surgery and didn’t want to get out in a crowd.
I guess I will have to go home and listen to the shows on Archive.org – Live Music Archive.
July 6, 2015 @ 6:56 pm
Hope you recover well CAH!
July 6, 2015 @ 5:22 pm
I don’t have much to add, but I would like to hear more discussion about The Band.
I would say that The Band and The Dead are comparable, save for the Grateful Dead’s longevity factor.
July 6, 2015 @ 5:26 pm
It just occurred to me that all but one member of The Band were Canadian.
At least they’re North American, right? 😉
July 7, 2015 @ 7:23 am
The original members were Canadians, except for the man behind the drums. But, almost all of the members who joined after the Band’s initial lineup were Americans.
July 6, 2015 @ 5:24 pm
The Velvet Underground is the most influential American band in the history of rock music. They are to indie and alternative rock what Black Sabbath is to metal.
July 6, 2015 @ 7:19 pm
This is my opinion and I don’t want to put any fuel in the fire. I really like the Grateful Dead but it’s not the same without Jerry Garcia. But anyhow I like to keep an open mind about the Dead without Jerry.
July 7, 2015 @ 7:26 am
Fascinating topic. The issue is what does “Important” mean. if influence is the focus, rather than just strong songs and/or strong albums, i’d say skynyrd and the dead top the list, Eagles not too far behind. The dead created a total scene with their jam band progeny and were relevant for decades even as they switched up musical styles. Skynyrd was the leader in the southern rock movement, is still played and revered today and, like it or not, played a role in the Bro Country sound (current skynyrd singer Donnie said in an interview that Jason Aldean was really just playing southern rock [although i wonder if Ronnie would have said the same thing). Skynyrd also has the songs, Sweet Home Alabama, Freebird and a long list of others that sound as good today as they did back then. The Eagles have a great catalogue of songs that have stood the test of time and, with Hotel California, arguably one of the greatest songs ever. They also clearly lead the country rock sound (note, i did not say invented, they just popularized it). Tom Petty could best them all for his string of amazing albums filled with consistently strong songwriting, but i do not think he really created a sound or a scene. A few others similar to Petty that no one has mentioned are Bob Seger and John Mellencamp, but neither rise to the level of being influential, even though they have a legacy of consistently great albums and songs. i was too young to feel the impact of Credence, but to me they have to be in the conversation too due to the string of amazing albums, hits drawn therefrom, and deep tracks that weren’t hits but that could have been. The strike against them is the short life of the band, three of their 5 or 6 albums were all released within a 12 month period.
i tried to focus on bands relevant to the country scene, since this is after all, the SCM website, but if one considered hard rock and metal, then G’n’R, Metallica and Van Halen should surely be in the conversation. Eddie Van Halen certainly created a monster with his then unique guitar style, Metallica popularized speed/thrash metal and G’n’R brought back sleazy, zep meets stones meets the sex pistols meets elton john style REAL rock and roll just when hair metal needed a good kick in the ass and an injection of realism.
…and then there is Prince! about as far from country as you can get, but damn, what a creative guy with a list of amazing songs and hits. Purple Rain, Little red corvette, Lets go Crazy, When Doves Cry, 1999, and on and on. played every instrument, sang, wrote, produced, he did it all.
Just my random two cents.
Frank the tank
July 7, 2015 @ 12:10 pm
I can’t narrow it down to which band and/or performer is the most influential, but I agree that Prince should definitely be in the conversation (as should the Beastie Boys, as noted above). These are two of my all-time favourite non-country artists.
July 7, 2015 @ 12:18 pm
A band that is often overlooked, and possibly because they are seen as derivative, is the Black Crowes. In my opinion, they are in the top five American rock bands of all time. They came later than Lynyrd Skynyrd, G’nR, Aerosmith, Metallica, etc., and they are victims of the decline of rock that occurred midway through their career… Southern Harmony Musical Companion is the best rock album released after Appetite for Destruction. Nothing has touched it since…
July 7, 2015 @ 4:17 pm
I totally agree with you about the crowes and SH&MC, but I feel after Amorica, Chris did too many drugs and the music suffered. Other than a song or two per album, I though most their albums post Amorica were duds.
Frank the tank
July 7, 2015 @ 12:17 pm
This is a fascinating discussion. As a Canadian, I’ve been thinking about this from a Canadian artist perspective. What makes this difficult (well, not exactly difficult, but interesting) is that many of the influential Canadian artists became successful (which is different than influential) after leaving Canada for the US. A few that come to mind are: The Guess Who, Neil Young, Ian Tyson, Anne Murray, Shania Twain (like her or not, it’s hard to argue that she wasn’t influential).
July 7, 2015 @ 5:03 pm
The fact that this question is even being asked is sad. Among important American artists (as opposed to just bands), the Grateful Dead aren’t even in the top 100. They probably aren’t in the top 500. To say otherwise is to insult the greatness of American music.
July 7, 2015 @ 5:55 pm
That seems like quite an extreme assessment. I think it stimulated a great discussion, and if for no other reason, that is not “sad.” If you think they are unworthy of the discussion, I can respect that. Saying the discussion is unworthy I think is quite strange given the evidence offered above.
July 8, 2015 @ 5:55 am
Saying the discussion is unworthy I think is quite strange given the evidence offered above.
My guess is that Jim thinks that those of us who enthusiastically participated in this discussion lack the proper perspective. He probably has a list of artists that we NEED to listen to help us get such a perspective.
July 8, 2015 @ 7:57 am
Jack, I have a long, long list, as would anyone who claims to be a true fan of American music. You can start with Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters, and James Brown. The idea that the Grateful Dead is on the level of any of those icons is laughable. History says they’re not even close. Some of the other “important” American artists being mentioned (Lynyrd Skynyrd?) are hysterical.
July 8, 2015 @ 8:14 am
I find your comments hysterical, in the true meaning of the word. Choreographed dance moves does not a good song make. Mindless jibber jabber and repetition of silly slang expressions is not a song.
July 8, 2015 @ 8:22 am
Mindless jibber jabber and repetition of silly slang? Apparently you’ve never listened to the three artists I mentioned. Each is a musical icon who greatly enriched our culture. What did the Dead enhance? Why not try doing your homework before posting?
July 8, 2015 @ 8:25 am
Most of James Brown’s songs could be written on the back of a napkin in 10 minutes or less. The MUSIC is often very good and catchy, but the lyrics are pure crap. Pick up a few James McMurtry albums and listen to what a well-crafted song with good lyrics sounds like.
July 8, 2015 @ 8:36 am
I own McMurtry albums, and I’m sure he appreciates and understands James Brown’s enormous musical impact. That impact is undeniable. There’s more than one way to approach songwriting. Jazz is largely a wordless medium, yet guys like Armstrong and Monk would rank far ahead of the Dead as songwriters.
July 8, 2015 @ 8:40 am
A lot of folks have mentioned solo artists as examples of why the Grateful Dead shouldn’t even be considered as one of the best, but solo artists weren’t the premise that was submitted for discussion. I don’t want to discourage people talking about who the greatest solo artists were, and contrasting that against the greatest bands, but saying the Grateful Dead was a terrible band because James Brown was so good sort of defeats the spirit of the discussion. Look, we each have difference musical tastes and experiences, and possibly more than any other band, the Grateful Dead rely on how knowledgeable people are with their music when deciding how important they were. If you don’t think they even belong in the discussion of the greatest American band ever, then hey, I respect that. That’s you opinion. But all the people who gathered in Chicago last weekend, and many of the people who have piped up in this very comments section disagree. And so I think that proves that they are at least relevant to the discussion.
July 8, 2015 @ 8:44 am
Like I said, the music is often good. Its not music that I particularly like or want to listen to, but I can respect it. The lyrics are puerile nonsense. Silly jibber jabber repeated over and over. One Steely Dan or James McMurtry song has more lyrical content than James Brown’s entire catalog.
July 8, 2015 @ 8:51 am
RD, I disagree re James Brown’s lyrics. There is nothing wrong with language that is simple and direct, with Hank Williams being further proof. James Brown’s impact runs circles around the Grateful Dead’s. Also, why are you talking about lyrical content on a thread about the Grateful Dead?
July 8, 2015 @ 8:53 am
I have a long, long list, as would anyone who claims to be a true fan of American music.
Well, hooray for you for being a “true” fan of American music.
You can start with Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters, and James Brown.
I wasn’t actually asking for your list, but thanks anyway. Besides, the discussion was about the Grateful Dead being one of the great American “groups.” Now, I don’t know that the Dead would make my personal top ten of American rock groups, but their Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty albums are among my all time favorites. Also, I find much to enjoy from a roots music fan’s perspective on their Reckoning and Europa live albums. The Ronnie Vant Zant led Lynyrd Skynyrd definitely does make my personal top ten of American rock groups. And if you think that’s “hysterical,” I don’t really care.
July 8, 2015 @ 8:56 am
Trigger, I mentioned Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven bands higher up. Those were certainly great bands. Also, popular doesn’t mean good as you’ve alluded to many times over the years (Florida Georgia Line). Post about the Grateful Dead being the best American band ever on a jazz or R&B forum and see how far the idea goes.
July 8, 2015 @ 9:46 am
I saw that, but I don’t consider backing bands as part of this discussion. It feels like a stretch. And I never said they were the “best” because that is even more subjective than “important.”
I think a lot of jazz fans would be surprised at the artistry displayed on their album “Blues for Allah.”
July 8, 2015 @ 9:31 am
Also, why are you talking about lyrical content on a thread about the Grateful Dead?
Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter is fairly well respected. For example, Jim Lauderdale has collaborated with him on several albums.
July 7, 2015 @ 5:57 pm
I saw Parliament funkadelic dropped by somebody in the comments. As far as cultural impact they may be the most important of all. P-funk -> G-funk. G-funk -> hip hop/rap as we know it.
July 8, 2015 @ 7:58 am
It all starts with James Brown. Most important artist of the last 50 years.
July 8, 2015 @ 4:15 am
Great piece here. My opinion is yes they were without a doubt. They are one of the best bands in the history of music. They are rock, jazz, blues, country, jam and all else wrapped up one beautiful package.
They also proved you don’t need Billboard and radio to be successful. They built a brand on great music and live shows.
July 8, 2015 @ 11:39 am
The Beach Boys were the most important band. Good Vibrations is the closest the US got to something as magnificent as Bohemian Rhapsody. The Beach Boys influenced the Beatles. The Beach Boys’s music is still being played and loved around the world. etc ……. the other bands do not tick as many boxes.
P.S. Thanks you for this website 🙂 it puts a smile on my face.
July 11, 2015 @ 4:51 pm
How About The One’s who never got the credit !! Gram Parsons, Tom Fogerty (His own Brother could have been Just a more supportive !), and Yes, of course, members of both, the NGDB and FBBB (GP Again !!) Jus’ sayin’. and I am a die Hard F$#@^ing Skynyrd Fan……..Hmmmm…..But, I Know My Musical History.
July 13, 2015 @ 7:45 pm
As a first time visitor to SavingCountryMusic.com I have tell you all how refreshing it is to see a friendly and intelligent exchange of ideas on music instead of the usual “I disagree with you/you suck” back and forth you see on so many sites.
I am a diehard Deadhead. I saw them 24 times I coding the night the played Unbroken Chain for the first time. I lost my virginity to Reckoning. My wedding song was “If I Had the World to Give” from side 2 of Shakedown Street and we played the Branford “Eyes of the World” from Nassau to my daughter the last three months she was in utero via headphones to my wife’s belly.
I believe the Dead are the the most live band of all time because of the constant improvisation. You had good shows and not so good shows but they were always shows worth attending as everyone had something to amaze you. Any band can do the same set every night and I loved the surprises every set brought to my ears and continue to bring to my ears via apps on my iPhone.
I can’t be objective about the Dead because their music has been a part of my life for the last 32 years. In terms of importance to American music, I definitely see them among the top 10 along with a Velvet Underground, Metallica, Skynyrd, Florida Georgia Line (just joking to see if anyone’s actually reading this), The Band, and a few others I’m too tired to think of right now.
Toby in AK
January 13, 2016 @ 1:30 pm
Paul Revere and the Raiders
Recently started looking into this band after learning that “Freeborn Man”, which I thought was written by Jimmy Martin, was actually written and performed by the Raiders. If you like country songs with a groove, check it out.
14 gold albums. 23 singles in the top 40. Wow! I had no idea this band was so successful. I always thought they were just the guys in the pirate costumes. Their music runs so much deeper, and I was surprised too about how many country songs they cut.
August 30, 2016 @ 12:17 pm
Great Article. Id say the Dead are far and away the most important American Rock Band of all time for all the reasons listed and then some… IMO the most hurculean stat is the fact that they had 120-150 songs that remained in rotation on any given tour, and could go 6 or 8 shows without repeating one… every other band listed as a contender in the article and in any of the comments basically took the same 15-20 songs on tour, played them the same way, with the same number of solo breaks over the same number of measures, in the exact same order, night after night after night after night, from city to city to city… Also worth mentioning is the fact that today in 2016, in just about every major US city you will find at least 2 or 3 GD Tribute bands that regularly play the local music venues and are thriving in them… James Brown tribute? Nirvana Tribute? Beach Boys Tribute? You’re lucky to find one or two inteh whole country and you have to go to Vegas to do so! – Somebody mentioned Songwriting… Garcia/Hunter having just been inducted in the songwriting hall of fame are second only to Lennon / McCartney in sheer volume and I would argue Quality…
Lets see, James Brown writes:
Is going just all right, come over here
Come over here, come over here
And be with me tonight, come over here
And everything will be all right
Come over here, come over here, Yeah
Meanwhile Garcia/Hunter Pen:
There were days
and there were days
and there were days between
Summer flies and August dies
the world grows dark and mean
Comes the shimmer of the moon
on black infested trees
the singing man is at his song
the holy on their knees
the reckless are out wrecking
the timid plead their pleas
No one knows much more of this
than anyone can see
Yeah… My money’s on the Dead for “most Important”.. They truly have no equal.
March 29, 2017 @ 6:19 am
They are still going strong! Aerial photos from the third Fare Thee Well show at Soldier Field – http://www.performanceimpressions.com/Grateful_Dead_Fare_Thee_Well_GD50/content/index.html
March 29, 2017 @ 11:01 am
I have seen close to 1,000 concerts ranging from Aerosmith to ZZ-Top. In between there was the Chuck Mangioni, Metallica, Paul simon and Bob Dylan, INXS, The Kinks, Ozzy, Jamiriquai, Rush, Flaming Lips you name the band and I’ve probably seen them. But when I went to my first The Grateful Dead show in Rochester,NY 1988 that was the day that changed my life. Not only are The Grateful Dead the best American band ever they are the Earth’s best band and possibly the entire universe. There is no other band that is even close to their level. It’s The Grateful Dead and then everyone else. If you don’t agree then your just not listening. Get your tickets for this summers Dead & Co.tour or just keep thinking Nirvana or The beach boys are the best american band, Haha yea right!
March 29, 2017 @ 5:03 pm
Without a doubt its the Dead. I’ll admit I’m a bit biased as I’ve seemingly been born into this life a Deadhead and having 35 shows or so in my Jerry days tour career. I’ve seen lots of other bands, lots of other live shows…..no one comes close to the magic this band created. It comes from the heart. For me it was all about “the sound” which made all the rest of it possible. No equal on this earth in terms of the sheer beauty and quality they created and channeled via their sound. Its extremely difficult, in fact impossible I’d say, to fully relate their essence and importance to anyone who wasn’t fortunate enough to see them and really “get it”. All the cultural stuff…..popularity of images, impact of songwriting, radio airplay, tv appearances, t-shirts, number of magazine articles, awards, etc…… is all peanuts compared to the number of hearts and minds they touched through the music. And the band really didn’t care about their “popularity” in the mainstream……unlike much of todays music which is pre-packaged, formulated, homogenized for the masses…….which makes their accomplishments even more impressive. If one is curious and couragious enough the essence of the music can still be experienced live in our present time with surviving members performing in Dead & Company. Catch it while you still can. This band is doing a really fine job of carrying forth the spirit and sound and magic of the music and creating many new fans 50+ years after their beginning. Hows that for dedication, impact, longevity, relevancy, staying power? It all begins and ends with the music…..not stickers, awards, and t-shirts.
May 1, 2017 @ 6:13 pm
Wow, I feel like I’m going crazy. Not one single mention of The Doors on this page?! They would easily contend for a spot in the top 3. Grateful Dead are strangely and famously irrelevant outside of North America, similar to other jam bands. Even a band like Kyuss would seem more immediately impactful from a non-US perspective. (Sorry for commenting on an old piece, I came here by googling why Dead are so unknown in other parts of the world. )
December 3, 2018 @ 10:54 am
Alright, grateful dead .whether an individual knows/likes them or not hands down
2300+ shows. 500+songs
Most respected by far among musicians from Branford Marsalis to Vasser Clements Lyle Lovett bruce hornsby metallica etc etcetera. Beach boys? Check out concert beach boys with grateful dead. Only thing awesome about beach boys is when dead drowning them out. Killer shows!! Glad beach boys were there, but dead was blood in that vein.
Nirvana pearl jam others what the fuck?
They’d be behind Michael fucking jackson for american influence.
Bruce Springsteen? Still not arm wrestling the dead. Allmans skynard awesome, Ccr doors g&r, still nope.
Cash, he’d pick the dead.
Eagles? That’s just dumb.
Van Halen, please.
World stage, remember this is a USA based premise, world stage—- simply put rolling stones or zepplin. Flip a f’n coin.
Country or not the grateful dead will steal your face right off of your head, so sit back contemplate what I have imparted unto you and wake the fuck up. Shoot str8, keep the wind in your face and pay attention, ya’ll are shitty drivers.
And dont be stupid and comment on my spellin’ or grammar. im from Appalachia NC and further more learn how to say Appalachia. or I’ll throw “an apple at ya”. The people in these mountains are the smartest, kindest hearted, self sustainable, tough ass SOB’s left in this country. So dont make fun of how we all talk. And asheville, despite it being present day Soddom and Gomorrah, was historically a major foundation venue medium, whatever the right word for that is, for country music.( long live doc Watson.)
Last thought, if the dead never existed Elvis would be the true answer. Think im crazy? Listen to “Movin’ On” and try not to shit your pants. If u listen and dont shit u ain’t got no soul.
June 12, 2019 @ 2:45 pm
I’m a lifelong Deadhead, so there’s a lot I could add; but seeing as how this is a country music website, let’s list the country songs the Dead covered – quite well – over the years.
Big River (Cash)
El Paso (Robbins)
Mama Tried (Haggard)
Me & Bobby McGee (Kristofferson)
Okie From Muskogee (Haggard)
The Race is On (Jones)
Silver Threads and Golden Needles (The Springfields)
Sing Me Back Home (Haggard)
Tomorrow is Forever (Parton)
You Ain’t Woman Enough (Lynn)
You Win Again (Williams)
June 28, 2019 @ 9:20 pm
GD were the like Beatles or Stones of America. They started as a Jug Band, Played Roots Music , Americana, Blues, Rock and Roll, Country, Jazz type tunes, Bluegrass type tunes and with some great lyrics I might add. Played most live shows ever too.
February 1, 2020 @ 10:00 am
I wouldn’t want to forget about The Doors. GD probably still takes it though. Although as far as mainstream musical impact, Aerosmith were major players in shaping popular music for 4 decades, from 70s to helping ntroduce hip hop to MTV in 80s to Waynes World and Armageddon. For better or worse their impact was larger than Dead or Eagles to the average american kid for 3 generations… Still not as important as the counter culture phenomenon of The Dead.
February 3, 2020 @ 1:50 pm
I think the Dead definitely take it. Now i am a huge dead head so i am a little biased but still i think they win the day over all the others. The dead may not win when it comes to commercial returns and record sales but that doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. In fact, that’s part of what made them so special; that they weren’t so mainstream and popular as other bands. In fact, it can be argued that a huge reason why Jerry and the band deteriorated and then died was because of their swell in popularity and followers, but that is beside the point. What matters is that they were making great music and influencing people in 1965, and they were doing the same thing in 1995. That is almost an impossible feat that arguably no band has been able to execute in the way the Dead did. Sure there are some old bands who still tour today, but none of them have the musical and cultural impact the dead had until, and even after Jerry died. Aside from their songs, music, and jams being extraordinary, that is why I view them as one of the greatest bands that ever played.
November 19, 2022 @ 2:50 pm
Yest the GD have few songs or albums that nonfans can name. That’s because their emphasis was on live music and the experience of being there. Of all the bands mentioned, think which one has the most tribute bands. Right now (11/22) there are over 650 active GD tribute bands in the US. There is even a web page that tracks many of the concerts and what’s playing on any given day in the US. Can any other band claim the same influence?