Happy Birthday Phil Lesh: Grateful Dead Highlights From 1978


Bassist Phil Lesh was born in Berkeley, California on this date in 1940. A co-founding member of the Grateful Dead, Lesh’s intricate approach to the low end was immeasurably influential on the psychedelic rock band’s improvisational style. Following the Rock And Roll Hall Fame inducted group’s disbandment in 1995, Lesh’s career has seen him leading ever evolving Phil & Friends lineups, joining his former band mates in various post-Dead incarnations and running his concert venue and restaurant in San Rafael, California.

At 78, Lesh shows no signs of slowing down with a number of festival appearances planned in the coming months with the Terrapin Family Band (including tonight at The Capitol Theater) as well as his normal slates of performances at Terrapin Crossroads. In honor of Phil turning 78 today, here’s a collection of audio and video of the Grateful Dead performing in various locations throughout the year 1978.

First up is a Spotify Playlist featuring highlights of Lesh alongside guitarists Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, keyboardist Keith Godchaux and vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux. Phil’s “Passenger” from February 3, 1978 opens the playlist followed by several tracks from that show that made up Dick’s Picks’ 18. Three seminal shows in the Grateful Dead’s history are also featured extensively in the playlist, beginning with their July 8 performance at Red Rocks during their first visit to the historic venue. Several selections also come from the Dead’s September 16 concert that was part of their landmark run in Egypt, which came about in part because of Lesh’s desire to play near the pyramids. The playlist ends with the New Year’s Eve performance that served as the closing of the famed Winterland Arena in their hometown of San Francisco.

The playlist also contains recordings from May 10 in New Haven, Connecticut and May 11 in Springfield, Massachusetts from Dicks Picks 25, as well as 1978 official releases from 30 Days Of Dead and other compilations. Listen here:

For a visual look at Phil and the Dead in action 40 years ago, below is a series of videos capturing the band in concert throughout 1978. The first video is from April 12 at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina. That wild show featured Garcia joining The Rhythm Devils, read more about it here. The next two videos are “Deal” and “Bertha” from the aforementioned September 16 show at Gizah Sound & Light Theater in Cairo, Egypt. Lesh and the band can then be seen in complete set videos of their November 24 performance at The Capitol Theatre in Passaic, New Jersey. The complete “Closing Of The Winterland” December 31 show finishes out the set of videos.

[Full Show | April 12 – Durham, North Carolina]

Voodoonola2 (See 42 videos)
Grateful Dead (See 1,267 videos)

[Deal | September 16 – Cairo, Egypt]

Grateful Dead (See 104 videos)
Grateful Dead (See 1,267 videos)

[Bertha | September 16 – Cairo, Egypt]

Grateful Dead (See 104 videos)
Grateful Dead (See 1,267 videos)

[Set One | November 24 – Passaic, New Jersey]


[Set Two | November 24 – Passaic, New Jersey]


[Full Show | December 31 – San Francisco, California ]


Finally, listen to Phil discuss the Grateful Dead and 1978 with photographer Jay Blakesberg at Terrapin Crossroads during Lesh’s 50th anniversary celebration series. Listen to the 1978 discussion (track 15) below: