- Phil Lesh
Infobox musical artist
Name = Phil Lesh
|Img_capt = Phil Lesh (right) and John Molo in concert.
Background = solo_singer
Birth_name = Phillip Chapman Lesh
Born = birth date and age|1940|3|15
Berkeley, California, USA
Origin = Berkeley, CA
Psychedelic rock, rock, folk rock, country rock, jam
Occupation = musician
Years_active = 1948 - present
Grateful DeadThe Warlocks The Other OnesThe Dead Phil Lesh and Friends
URL = http://www.phillesh.net
Phillip Chapman Lesh (born
March 15, 1940in Berkeley, California) is a musicianand a founding member of the Grateful Dead. Lesh played bass guitarin that group throughout their 30-year career.
Lesh started out as a
violinplayer. In high school, he switched to trumpet, studying under Bob Hansen, and had a keen interest in avant-garde classical music and free jazz; he also studied under the Italian modernist Luciano Berioat Mills College(classmates included minimalist composer Steve Reich, and future Dead keyboardist Tom Constanten). While still a college student he met then-bluegrass banjoplayer Jerry Garcia. They formed a friendship and eventually Lesh was talked into becoming the bass guitarist for Garcia's new rock group, then known as the Warlocks. He joined them for their third or fourth gig (memories vary) and stayed until the end. Lesh noticed that another group had made a record under the name Warlocks when he found their album at a store. He suggested to the other band members that they change their name.
Lesh had never played bass before joining the band, which meant he learned "on the job", but it also meant he had no preconceived attitudes about the instrument's traditional "
rhythm section" role. Indeed, he has said that his playing style was influenced more by Bach counterpointthan by rock or soul bass players (although one can also hear the fluidity and power of a jazzbassist such as Charles Mingusor Jimmy Garrisonin Lesh's work, along with similarities to fellow San Francisco psychedelic-era bassist Jack Casady).
Lesh, along with
Paul McCartney, Jack Bruce, John Entwistle, and Jack Casady, was an innovator in the new role that the electric bass developed during the mid-1960s. These players adopted a more melodic, contrapuntal approach to the instrument; before this, bass players in rock had generally played a conventional timekeeping role within the beat of the song, and within (or underpinning) the song's harmonic or chord structure. While not abandoning these aspects, Lesh took his own improvised excursions during a song or instrumental. This was a characteristic aspect of the so-called San Francisco Soundin the new rock music. In a great Dead jam, Lesh's bass is, in essence, as much a lead instrument as Garcia's guitar.
Lesh was not a prolific composer or singer with the Grateful Dead, although some of the songs he did contribute—"New Potato Caboose", "
Box of Rain", " Unbroken Chain", and "Pride of Cucamonga"—are among the best-loved in the band's repertoire. His interest in avant-garde music was a crucial influence on the Dead, pushing them into new territory, and he was an essential part of the group and its mystique, best summed-up in the Deadheadtruism: "If Phil's on, the band's on". Also, a snippet of tape of Lesh on trumpet in college can be heard on the Bob Weir-composed "Born Cross-Eyed."
After the disbanding of the
Grateful Dead, Lesh continued to play with its offshoots The Other Onesand The Dead, as well as performing with his own band, Phil Lesh and Friends(one memorable tour paired him with Bob Dylan).
Additionally, Lesh and his wife Jill administer their charitable organization, the
Unbroken Chain Foundation. The couple have two children together. Grahame, age 21, is part of the class of 2009 at Stanford University. Brian, age 18, is a freshman at Princeton University. Both Grahame and Brian follow in their father's musical footsteps, and the three frequently play together both publicly and privately.
In 1998 Lesh underwent a
liver transplantas a result of chronic Hepatitis Cinfection; since then, he has become an outspoken advocate for organ donorprograms and when performing regularly encourages members of the audience to become organ donors (tracks identified as the "donor rap" on the live recordings of his various performances).
In April, 2005, Lesh's book "Searching for the Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead" (ISBN 0-316-00998-9) was published. The book takes its name from the lyrics of a Grateful Dead song entitled "Unbroken Chain," off their album "
From the Mars Hotel". "Unbroken Chain" is one of the few songs Lesh sings. This is the only book about the Grateful Deadwritten by a member of the band.
On October 26th, 2006, Lesh released a statement on his official website, revealing that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer (a disease that killed Lesh's father) and would be undergoing an operation in December 2006 to have it removed. On December 7th, 2006, Lesh released a statement stating that he had undergone prostate surgery with the cancer being removed.
In March 2008, Phil Lesh did a guest voice on the Comedy Central series "
Lil' Bush" on the second season episode "Big Pharm".
Phil Lesh and Friends
* [http://www.kyndmusic.com/2006/06/13/the-wire-is-life-a-conversation-with-phil-lesh/ DeYoung, Bill. "The Wire Is Life: A Conversation with Phil Lesh", KyndMusic, June 13th, 2006]
* [http://www.phillesh.net/ Phil Lesh and Friends Official Site]
* [http://www.philzone.com/ Phil Lesh and Friends Fan Site]
* [http://www.collegecrier.com/interviews/int-0042.asp Phil Lesh Interview: All about the Music, October 2007 by T. Virgil Parker]
* [http://www.jamradio.org/artists/phillesh.php Phil Lesh and Friends downloads at JamRadio.org]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.