Concert of the week in Grateful Dead history: July 18, 1976 (Listen Now)

The work of his day measures more than the planting and growing.

By The Deadhead Cyclist

For Week


After an interminable hiatus in 1975 (and by “hiatus” I mean four Dead concerts, numerous recording sessions, the release of the Blues For Allah album, and plenty of shows by Kingfish, Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders, and other side projects), the boys (and the girl) finally hit the road for a summer tour in June of ’76. After 17 shows in Boston, New York, Passaic, NJ, Upper Darby, PA and Chicago, the summer revival continued with six shows at the 2200-seat Orpheum Theater in San Francisco. The last of these concerts, 7/18/76, is my choice for T.W.I.G.D.H.

While the entire show is top drawer, the jamming out of Lazy Lightning is especially brilliant, the transition into Let It Grow absolutely seamless, and even the wrong note Jerry plays at the beginning of Wharf Rat makes this recording one of the most unique in the vast vault of material that forms the Grateful Dead’s musical legacy. 

The summer of ’76 was also a time of great political upheaval, and a transitional moment for me, personally. Just as I was arriving in Charlottesville, VA after spanning the country on a hitchhiking trip with nothing but a backpack in my possession (including one 90-minute Maxell cassette tape with the 8/13/75 Great American Music Hall show on Side A and the Dark Star>Morning Dew segment from 10/18/74 on the B-Side), Jimmy Carter was about to put an end to the national nightmare of the Nixon/Vietnam era. 

The Democratic National Convention at New York’s Madison Square Garden was on the box in the same living room where I was crashing, and I can still conjure the televised image of a young, idealistic woman with tears streaking down her face as Carter’s infectious smile promised to save the American dream and restore integrity to the presidency. Today, four decades and six presidents later, the phrase, “The more things change the more they stay the same,” has never been more applicable.

But through it all, one thing hasn’t changed: The poetry of the Grateful Dead – and all that it represents – is as relevant now as it was when Jimmy Carter accepted the Democratic nomination the same week that the Dead were playing a remarkable series of shows at the Orpheum. It is well known that Carter had been a peanut farmer before becoming a State Senator and the Governor of his home state of Georgia. Clearly, as a farmer who became President of the United States, his life’s work yielded a crop that measured far more than the bushels of peanuts he produced after he left his career with the U.S. Navy to run the family business, following the death of his father.

While there is a reference in the Farmer’s Almanac that the Grateful Dead was a source of inspiration for him, I doubt Jimmy Carter ever realized that he is the perfect personification of the “plowman” character referenced in the Let It Grow passage in the incredible second set of the 7/18/76 Orpheum show. During his years of “planting and growing,” Jimmy “Plowman” Carter learned that it is the work itself that matters more than the harvest (read: financial gain). This focus on the work led him and the many others he helped during his political career – and perhaps more importantly during the years since he left the White House – to riches far more valuable than those which can be measured in wealth or prestige.

To miss the opportunity to have your work measure “more than the planting and growing” is to fail to recognize your life’s true purpose.

In the year 1990, I recognized that “something new (was) waiting to be born” and I threw myself and all of my resources into developing a business opportunity. My initial objective was to build a company so financially successful that I could retire after 10 years. But just one year after the launch of the business – an alternative weekly newspaper – something changed for me. Inspired by the journalistic work of one of my employees, I realized that my business had the potential to help many people by exposing injustice and protecting the weak and vulnerable from the powerful. This caused a fundamental change in my goals.

As of that moment, my work measured more than merely building a successful business that would result in an early and comfortable retirement. Suddenly, the goal was to heal a broken world, and the work I would be passionately engaged in for 30 years – and am still engaged in (so much for an early retirement) – began to weigh far more than I ever imagined. And in spite of the paradigm shift that my company underwent at that pivotal moment – or perhaps because of it – as I near the time of retirement I now have the freedom to engage in my other passions – cycling, baseball, writing – alongside running my business.

Most importantly, my decision to reach for the highest potential of my work – helping others, supporting my community, providing career opportunities for my dedicated employees, modeling ethical and sustainable business practices, creating something “built to last” – has provided the ultimate reward that we all deserve at the end of the day: the feeling that you have lived a life that mattered. If you are at or past the age of retirement, you know how important this is; if you are not there yet, trust me, this will become increasingly important to you as “all the years combine,” and you are well advised to prepare accordingly.

Regardless of what kind of work you are engaged in, you can envision a way to be of service to the world you were mysteriously invited to be a part of. To miss the opportunity to have your work measure “more than the planting and growing” is to fail to recognize your life’s true purpose. The measure of Jimmy Carter’s work as a farmer led him to become a world-changing figure as President of the United States; the measure of the Grateful Dead’s work as musicians created a transformative culture that has inspired multiple generations; the measure of my work as a journalism entrepreneur has served to shine a light on the goodness that we must bring about in our world.

What is the “more” in the measure of your work?

Concert of the week in Grateful Dead history: July 18, 1976 (Listen Now)

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