‘Live Dead’: Bob Minkin’s Photos of the Grateful Dead – Rolling Stone
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The Dead Come Alive: Bob Minkin’s Live Photos of the Grateful Dead

Stories behind the longtime Dead chronicler’s iconic images from the 1970s to today

Jerry Garcia performing at the Shoreline Ampitheatre in June 1990.

Jerry Garcia performing at the Shoreline Ampitheatre in June 1990.

Bob Minkin

Forty years ago, photographer Bob Minkin saw his first Grateful Dead-related show, a Jerry Garcia Band gig at the Capitol Theater in New Jersey. Luckily for fans and historians, Minkin, then a high school student in Brooklyn, began carting along a camera to take souvenirs of shows he attended. By the late Seventies, he was shooting professionally, and by the time Garcia died in 1995, Minkin had caught and shot hundreds of Dead and Garcia shows. Minkin's new book, Live Dead: The Grateful Dead (available at bookstore and here), compiles his work from the 1970s to the present, and Minkin shared some of the stories behind the shots.

Landscape view of Laguna Seca in Monterey, California where the Dead performed in May of 1987.

Laguna Seca, Monterey, California, May 1987

"This was the night they made the 'Touch of Grey' video," says Minkin. "I got to hang with Jerry for an hour backstage. He was real chipper and funny. He was holding a cigarette and one of his daughters pulled it out of his hand. He said, 'The rest of the band, they try to screw me up!' I said, 'What do you mean?' He leans forward and says, 'They'll switch the tempo to make sure I'm following along.' I said, 'Really? You guys play games with each other?' He said, 'Oh, yeah — you gotta be paying attention.' He was so human and down to earth."

Giants Stadium tightly packed with fans in East Rutherford, New Jersey in July 1989.

Giants Stadium, New Jersey, July 1989

"Things had changed by 1989," Minkin says. "These were enormous stadium shows, hot and humid. It was tough. You had to have stamina. When 'Touch of Grey' came out, the demographic changed quite a bit. Now there was more of a mainstream crowd going to the shows and the legends of drugs and hippie chicks was part of the draw, the mythology. This audience looks like it could be at a metal concert. It wasn't like sitting outside the Keystone anymore."

Grateful Dead

Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, California, June 1990

"This was at Shoreline right after my wife and I moved there," says Minkin. "I shot the Dead a lot and they didn't change a lot onstage, so you tried to capture something unique. Jerry was just so energetic. He generally didn't move around much, but he was ending the song with aplomb. The guy next to me said, 'Did you get that?' This was pre-digital, so I said, 'I hope so.' Back then you didn't know until you got your slides back from the lab."

Furthur playing at Sweetwater in Mill Valley, California

Sweetwater, Mill Valley, California, January 2013

"When Jerry died, no one knew what was going to happen," Minkin says. "But these are musicians — they're not going to retire. And eventually they did come back in various configurations. Bob and Phil needed an outlet to play, and Furthur was one of them. This was a four-day run at Sweetwater, where I'm the house photographer. These were the best Furthur shows I'd ever seen. The Dead had started to become predictable in their sets and Furthur was completely unpredictable. They could play anything in any order."

Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann at 7 Walkers, Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, California on October 30th, 2011.

Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, October 2011

"This was when Bill Kreutzmann was in 7 Walkers," says Minkin. "The feeling was that the drummers were estranged from the rest of the band, since they weren't in Furthur. Mickey was there as a surprise, but when Weir showed up I was like, 'Wow, you never seen that anymore.' As you can see in the picture, it's like they hadn't seen each other in a while, but they were all back-slapping and chatting up a storm. It was like getting together with best friends you hadn't seen in a while because some shit went down but now it's water under the bridge."