Bill Kreutzmann of The Grateful Dead
The Tracks brings you Mr. Bill Kreutzmann, drummer for The Grateful Dead. In this interview, we touched on The Grateful Dead’s influence and interactions during President Obama’s campaign, their responsibilities to the Deadheads, and if the Bay Area’s New Year’s Eve shows will be the curtain call for The Grateful Dead.
M: Mr. Bill Kreutzmann, of the Grateful Dead, thank you very much for being here on the Tracks.
B: Yeah, nice being here, thanks for having me.
M: Legends… The Grateful Dead… Obviously if you think about American bands, you think about the Grateful Dead. How do you feel the Grateful Dead’s influence and responsibility to the fans has been over the years?
B: The responsibility lies in the love of playing music and trying to play the best music you possibly can. For years and years we never pitched politics until this last horrendous eight years came up. We’re always pretty much a-political and we didn’t tell the fans anything, we just entertained. We just played music, that’s all we cared about.
M: So you said these horrendous past eight years, how are the next years going to happen, how do you feel about it?
B: I think the next eight years are going to be incredible. At least it’s going to be a lot different, a lot better. I got to meet President Obama and he’s real, man. I stood closer than you and I are talking right now and I looked right in his eye. He’s also from Hawaii so I kidded him about his surfing. There was a picture of him bodysurfing and he had really good form, he was on his side and had his arm out like you’re supposed to have when you bodysurf. I was kidding him about it, and he didn’t know where I was from, he thought Grateful Dead, he must have lived in the states or something. He looked me in the eye real close and said, “You’re from Hawaii, aren’t you?” That cat’s smart, man. No, I really see a freshness. We played the inauguration. We played the Atlantic Ball. He came and he met us there the first time and it was terrific. The guy really took time to come and meet the people that helped him because we had played at Penn State to about 16,000 people, a young audience, college educated people, and that really helped. I think the young vote really helped him. And the way he did his campaign was so smart. Dave Axelrod is a wonderful person and he lead President Obama down the right path. He said, “use computers, use the internet, don’t get lobbyist money, get donations” and that was smart. Now he doesn’t owe any one person something, like some big corporation or something. Of course, you know all about lobbying, I don’t want to get into all that nonsense, I dislike that myself. That’s not politics. You hire somebody from your state to be your senator and then they’re paid for by something else. That’s no good.
M: So the Dead influenced the voter’s vote? (laughs) Did you get him into office or what?
B: I think we influenced them at Penn State for sure. What happened to me is, about four or five years ago, I read his second book, The Audacity of Hope, and I said, my God, this is a dream if this guy can be president. So I’m really happy with it.
M: The show on New Year’s Eve is in the Bay Area. The rumor is that that will be the farewell show for the Dead.
B: That’s a rumor. We have actually talked about that yet. I’ve been asked a few questions today about plans and records and stuff but we haven’t actually gotten together and had a sit down about what we’re going to do yet.
M: Well, thank you for the music for all these years.
M: You’ve made a lot of people happy.
B: It’s made me happy. That’s probably why I’m still alive! (laughs)
M: Appreciate it.
B: You’re welcome, man.