Robert Weir: Teaching history through the prism of the Grateful Dead

Historians in the News

AMHERST - Students shuffle into the morning history class to a dreamlike drone, a fog of fuzzy guitars, and sleepy harmonies. It's a wistful, faraway sound, a lingering echo from a distant time.

In this University of Massachusetts-Amherst course, the '60s never died, burned out, or faded away, and the Grateful Dead is alive and trucking. The students were born two decades after the legendary band sprung from the San Francisco rock scene, but many know every riff and every word to the group's classic tune "Dark Star," which kicked off a recent lecture.

Welcome to History 297D, otherwise known as "How Does the Song Go? The Grateful Dead as a Window into American Culture," which was launched this fall. Believed to be the only college course in the country dedicated to the Dead, the class analyzes the popular band, the avatar of hippie counterculture, and its famously loyal fans as a springboard to a deeper look at American society and politics during the group's 30-year run...
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