It is TunesDay and this week we’re going to have a dose of Good Ol Grateful Dead. At the end of the 1980’s, the Dead released “Built To Last” and the song “Standing On The Moon” from the album became a standard part of their concert repertoire from then forward. Have a listen but I’ll tell you up front that while the quality of the music is superb it’s not a great video. I chose this performance because it’s 1989, it’s an earthquake benefit the Dead played in Oakland, and yes, that’s Clarence Clemons sitting in on sax:
Pretty, right? And the “Such a lovely view of Heaven/ I’d rather be with you” part while we look at Jerry and Clarence gets more poignant every day. So what does this have to do with business?
There is a tendency for all of us to have a “grass is always greener” mentality both in life and in business. This song captures that as well as how one’s perspective can have an awful to do with one’s happiness. Jerry sings about a number of things in the world that are pretty bad (war, children starving, etc.) and about standing on the moon, happy to be away from all of it. In fact, with a broader perspective, they appear kind of small as he “watches it all roll by.” The singer then realizes that while it’s serene on the moon with a lovely view of Heaven, the person he loves is still on earth. Despite all the ugliness of the world, he wants to be back there.
It’s always a good idea to keep the broader perspective in business. Be aware of the details but like the protagonist in the song, see them as part of a much bigger whole. Things that may seem important up close are, in fact, relatively trivial. It’s also an example of how things can take on added meaning when we use that additional perspective. Jerry would be gone (along with Brent, the Dead’s keyboard player) in a handful of years after this was released. I can’t listen to this without getting chills – he has a lovely view of Heaven but would rather be with us. In fact, Garcia had almost died shortly before this song was written – I’ve always thought Robert Hunter was writing these lyrics with that in mind.
As businesspeople, a little time on the moon is a good thing. Take a step back and don’t get caught up in any one moment or weekly report. Stand on that proverbial moon. You’ll “hear a cry of victory/And another of defeat” and realize that it’s the journey as much as it is the destination. Coming along?
Happy Birthday Jerry Garcia, wherever you are!
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you’ve spent any time here on the screed you’re probably aware that I’m a Deadhead. I’ve written about them a lot and I often find business thoughts inspired by their music and their business practices. Besides liking their music, I have a real appreciation of their acumen as business people. Marketing Secrets Of The Grateful Dead is a must-read for anyone who is trying to understand the marketing paradigm these days and Jerry, despite his reluctance to say so, was the leader of the band. In fact, in their own words:
I’m gonna sing you a hundred verses in ragtime
I know this song it ain’t never gonna end
I’m gonna march you up and down the local county line
Take you to the leader of the band
Jerry had his struggles with drugs and food, so much so that they killed him at age 53. While the band continues on in various forms, it’s not the same without him and the remaining band members would be the first to tell you that.
Since this is a business blog, let me interject a business thought. I’m sure when the Dead started making music in 1965 they didn’t think that we’d be listening to recordings of their live shows almost half a century later. Nevertheless, recordings of shows from the late 60’s all the way through 1995 when Jerry passed are a staple on their own Sirius XM channel and the band continues to release CD’s of them. The fact that they took the time to assure high quality recordings would be placed in an archive long before they were a huge act shows that they appreciated what they were creating. How many other bands have/need an archivist or have their own collection at a university? You might know they also allowed fans to tape their shows, going so far as to set up a special “tapers” area to encourage it. In tech terms, they created huge redundancy of their product in case their own system of soundboard recording ever failed.
The business point is this. While many businesses find themselves pivoting – altering their business plan to suit changing tastes or market conditions – you can’t assume that what you’re doing today will be gone tomorrow. The Dead changed their sound and styles over the years – Shakedown Street‘s disco beat is very different from Dark Star’s spacey vibe – but their core appreciation for their product and their fans never changed. The Dead on a bad night are really awful and those recordings are out there, often issued by the band. They’re far outweighed by the good nights and the great nights trump them all. That transparency and looking at their work through their fans’ eyes is long-term thinking regardless of today’s product.
Jerry was far from a saint. He died in drug rehab with a couple of failed marriages and shaky finances. He’s also the most recorded guitarist in history, with 2,200 Dead shows, 1,000 side project shows, and other studio work totaling some 15,000 hours of playing preserved for our enjoyment. So Happy Birthday, Jerry, and thanks for the gifts.
We all tend to put things into little niches. It’s probably the only way our minds can keep track of all that is going on around us, and given that all THAT STUFF seems to be multiplying each day, the ability to categorize and file away meta data about people, companies, and other things is, in my opinion, key to being a highly-functional person today. Naturally, I thought about this last night while watching the Grammy awards. Continue reading