So I’m driving down the highway the other day, and this song comes on. Now normally, I’m not a big singer-in-the-car type, but I was really feeling it. So I start to belt out the chorus, ” I will get by, I will survive!” And I felt a little better instantly. It’s the power of music, like a cathartic release from the stresses and difficulties of life.
Touch of Grey is by the Grateful Dead, one of their most recognizable songs. In fact, it was the only top 10 hit for the band (it peaked at #9), which is remarkable considering the wealth of songs the band recorded from 1965 until Jerry’s untimely death in 1995. Their career was so vast yet remained mostly underground to the general population. It seemed that it was a secret to the community of Deadheads, of which I consider myself an honorary member. I was just getting into the Dead in high school and went to “the lot” for their concert at Soldier Field in 1995, if only to experience the scene. It was eye-opening; the sights, sounds, the smells! It was truly a community unto its own, with people who followed the band around the country. They looked out for each other, and forged relationships that were unique to the tour. People sold merchandise, shirts, grilled cheeses, or other things…….just to make enough to get to the show or the next town. At Soldier Field that night I didn’t have a ticket or much money, so I was content to kick it in the lot with some new friends. I always thought I would make it to more shows, but alas it was not to be. Jerry died a little less than a month later, August 9, 1995, of a heart attack. He had been in and out of rehab, had horrible health problems stemming from obesity, diabetes, and longstanding drug addictions. It seemed to be a byproduct of the lifestyle of a traveling musician; some figured out how to take proper care of themselves, but he never did. The band continued on after his death, in many different forms, with many different people trying to fill the void. I have been to quite of few of those ensembles over the years, but it was not the same without Jerry.
Thinking about Touch of Grey, and how it applies to my life now, its kind of an obvious correlation. All I have to do is look in the mirror, and I see a little grey in my beard, a few grey hairs and evidence that I am getting older. Robert Hunter, Jerry’s songwriting partner, wrote this song in reference to the band growing old gracefully. I think about that, and how I’ve tried to evolve over the years. To be a better version of myself, correcting my past mistakes and behavior. Is this a perfect evolution? Of course not! There are plenty of moments where I feel myself reverting to my past, not taking proper care of my health or acting like a child. But I’m conscious of those moments, try to take a deep breath, and stop those tendencies before they take over. It’s not a perfect system, and there are plenty of times when I am not happy with myself. But I try to have more good moments than bad. Like the song said, “Every silver lining has a touch of grey.”
Having gone through all I have in life, I try to draw on those experiences and that perspective to then evolve into a better person. I think about all I have now, as well as all the struggles and difficulties (both physical and mental) that have led me to the point where I have grey hairs! If I told my teenage self that I would still be not only kicking but successful at 40 years old, I would have laughed at myself and dismissed the possibility. But here I am. I keep waking up everyday, and moving forward. So I try to keep progressing and growing as a person, a man, a father, a husband, and a CF elder statesman. 🙂
Also, as it is Sept 11th today, I want to take a quick moment to remember the people who were tragically lost on that day, and the first responders and everyone who put themselves at risk to help. That was the best version of America, how we came together as one to pick ourselves off the mat. Hopefully, we as a nation can get back to that America. NEVER FORGET!!