On October 25th, 1991, legendary San Francisco concert promoter Bill Graham was flying on a helicopter back from a Huey Lewis concert in Concord, California, when the chopper crashed into a high-voltage tower, killing him and everyone else on board immediately. He travelled to the Lewis concert to see if the singer would perform at a show he was organizing to aid the victims of a recent firestorm in Oakland, just one of the many charitable events he worked on during his incredible career.
Within days of Graham’s death, a massive concert in his honor started coming together in San Francisco’s Golden State Park. Bobby McFerrin, Jackson Browne, Joe Satriani, Aaron Neville, Santana, Robin Williams, the Grateful Dead, John Fogerty, Joan Baez, Kris Kristofferson joined the bill along with a reunited Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Journey, who hadn’t played with frontman Steve Perry since the band folded in 1986.
The Grateful Dead were the last band to take the stage, and they were joined by Fogerty for four Creedence Clearwater Songs, marking one of the first times he’d done that material in public since the band ended two decades earlier. Bob Dylan was in the middle of a tour at the time and couldn’t make the show, but Neil Young came out near the end of the Dead’s set to sing “Forever Young” with them. “I got a letter her from Bob,” Young said before beginning the tune. “It’s too big to read, so we’re going to have to play and sing it to you.” (You can see video of the performance above.)
Despite regularly packing their set full of cover songs, the Grateful Dead never did a single Neil Young song in concert. Jerry Garcia did play pedal steel on Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s “Teach Your Children,” but Young didn’t actually play on that tune, making it more of a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Garcia song. This single performance of “Forever Young” is the only time that Young performed with the Dead, as well as the only time the group covered that song.