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The Biblical Story in the Songs and Shows of the Grateful Dead

Monday, March 2 at 7 p.m. in the Culbertson Room

Andrew R. McGaan, P.C.

This course will explore the Grateful Dead’s robust and surprising use of biblical themes and imagery—surprising because of who the Dead were and the cultural milieu from which they arose. The feeling of being lost, intermingled with hope for a return home is universal. It is also the principal message told by the Grateful Dead. The band also shaped its live shows to mimic the arc of the biblical story.

The class will explore the background of the band’s principal members and lyricists—who where not professing Christians or interested in proselytizing—and their open commitment to expropriating the biblical story. It will show how they appropriated that story in lyric and performance and how they made it compelling to misfit counter culture fans who thought they were engaged in tearing down this and other features of the established culture.

As the Grateful Dead sang, “Once in a while you can get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right.”

Andy McGaan holds an AB and JD from Cornell University. He has attended more that fifty Grateful Dead shows, administered Dead-related websites, published commentary on biblical themes in the Dead’s music, contributed liner notes for Dead music releases,and currently represents the Grateful Dead Scholars Association. He is a member of Fourth Presbyterian Church downtown and serves as Clerk of Session.