What Made the Dead so Grate?

My digital project serves two purposes surrounding the Grateful Dead. My first purpose is to illustrate where each Grateful Dead member got their influences. I also looked at the polarity of their songs. Since I am a long time Dead fan I had a lot of knowledge about them already, but I did not know very much about who or what drove them to create psychedelic rock. My research consisted of documentaries, interviews, the book “Deal” by Bill Kreutzmann, and online research to solidify the facts I already knew about each member. This project was completely different to what I was used to doing. When Professor Schacht introduced the idea, I was very scared up until the middle of October because I knew very well that I am not good with technology and understanding the use of computers. Throughout the course I learned a lot, we learned some coding, how to make a website, how to use Timeline JS (which I used in my project), how to embed youtube clips, pictures, or anything really. For my project I choose to use WordPress, the reason was because it looked like it would be easy to master and I did do a good job learning the ins and outs of the site. For my timeline I inserted every song that I selected to look into for the polarity of them. The first ten songs listed on my site are the songs that I believed were either happy or dark. Then the last six songs listed on my site are the songs that the software thought were the darkest or happiest. For the polarity section of my project Kirk Anne helped me a lot. He used a software called “Textblob”, the software computes all the words in each song to determine whether or not the song is dark or happy, Textblob and I had a couple of agreements and some disagreements.

Spreadsheet of song polarity: Made by Kirk Anne


The first challenge I faced was creating a website. I didn’t even start a website until the end of October because I didn’t know how to use it too well and I thought I would ruin the site altogether if I tried to get started. While I was still trying to get over my fear of technology, I did the research and wrote down all the content for my site using google docs. I overcame my fear by going to office hours with Kirk and Professor Schacht so they could help me better understand how to work WordPress and to do better in the course. I still have a one challenge left in my project; I wanted to cut out scenes from the Grateful Dead documentary on Amazon, but due to copyright issues I was never able to get this on my site. How did I overcome this obstacle? I noted down where I wanted to cut the scenes while watching the documentary so I could remember where I should go. Thankfully I did this because I decided to quote the scenes that I wanted to cut out. Although, it is not the way I wanted it to turn out because quotes are not nearly as good as someone from the band speaking about their experiences, I was still able to make it work.   

Screenshot from my site, the top bar is embedded from Archive.org and the bottom from YouTube.


My website is easy to navigate because I wanted to keep as simple as possible, but at the same time make fun and exciting for anyone who visits the site, not just Deadheads or people who enjoy reading about music.

Screenshot of the sidebar on my site

This is the only sidebar I have on my site, I choose to only do one because again, it kept the project simple and concrete. When you click on the arrow next to “influences” all the names of the band members get hidden. I like this aspect because it makes my site look clean and organized.

Throughout the semester I learned a lot and I am extremely happy that I took this course. All the digital tools that I have learned how to use this semester will be very useful in the future, whether it is for a school project or for a future job. Thank you Professor Schacht and Kirk for a wonderful semester!  

What made the Dead so Great?

Throughout the semester so far I have been conducting research for my project that is about the Grateful Dead. My goal for this project is to see what influenced each band member and why they decided to go through with music and being a “rockstar” when most people they came across in their early life told them that music will always be just a hobby, you could never make a real living out of it. Little did they know the Grateful Dead would soon destroy this image of rockstars.

When Professor Schacht introduced the project to us, I had this huge and truly great idea for a digital project. My first thought was to go through psychedelic rock as a whole and discover where the influences came to start this new genre of music. I sat down and thought to myself a little and thought about how much time I will have to complete this project if I go through with it and I came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t be too smart for me to try and figure out where this new genre of music came from, there just wouldn’t be enough time. My idea came from this book I am currently reading called, “Deal” by Bill Kreutzmann (drummer for the Dead).

 Newly constructed Goal

One of my favorite bands is the Grateful Dead and to sit down and do a project about them for school is just an added bonus for me to do. I have three main goals for this project. My first is figuring out what influenced each band member to be able to accomplish what they had done.I am currently doing research, which I have been doing for some time now, and I am figure out what each influenced each band member from Jerry Garcia to Donna Godchaux. My second goal is me working along side with Kirk Anne. He is helping me with my middle part of my project which is about text analysis. My last goal is to see the influence the “deadhead” community has had on the future generations. There are people like me and a lot of my friends that will never have the opportunity to hear Jerry play music, but for some reason we are just as much “deadheads” as the people from the past generations.

Lyrics of the Dead

Kirk is helping me with another aspect to my project. He took every Grateful Dead song and and examined their lyrics. He ran them through a database called “azlyrics.com”. My next step for this part is to compare their lyrics and style of music to modern groups and bands. I gave him a list of couple of modern bands. The list is, Phish, Dave Matthews Band, Dr. Dog, The Dove and The Wolf, and My Morning Jacket. The two main groups focus on are Phish and Dave Matthews Band. The Grateful Dead started the Jam Band movement. Without them jamming wouldn’t have been around for a while. 

This semester I am taking Music 291 with Dr. Kimball. This course is about folk music and mainly about Woody Guthrie and who he influenced. Woody Guthrie happened to have a slight influence on several band members in the Dead. This course ends off with a look on Bob Dylan and what he did for folk, blues and country. Also the dead toured with Dylan a couple of times and had impacts of each others careers.

My most stressful part is yet to come. I am a little behind most people because I have not set up a website yet. I am planning on using either Omeka or wordpress. As of right now I am leaning towards wordpress because I have a little experience with it and it is easy for me to navigate my way through.

My digital aspect to this project comes with the interaction one will be able to do when going through and reading this site. Throughout my research there have been many facts and interviews that are best explained by the person himself and not me. Like the project that I found in the beginning of the semester about indigenous LA I would like to have video clips of  what band members are saying about their own music. Along with that since my focus is their influences and what type of music they listened to growing up or what attracted them to the drums for the first time I am planning on inserting little audio clips of music. For example, when the Grateful Dead were The Warlocks, at first, they did not use electronic instruments, they were just a bluegrass band, that is it. Then came the introduction of these bizarre instruments that they seem to enjoying.


Mapping Indigenous LA

“Mapping Indigenous LA” is a digital project created with ArcGIS which is a mapping software created by Esri. This project provides a map of Los Angeles and tells us the lost stories and history of the Native Americans. The tribes that are included are the Gabrielino/Tongva and Tatavian. The Native Americans were forced out West by governmental policies instilled by the colonist.

The main site has three links to separate sites. The first is introducing the tribes that the project will be covering and describes what the goal of the project is, which is to give us a detailed visual map of the indigenous people who lived on the land before. A map of LA doesn’t tell a story about its people who resided there first.

The picture on the left is the home site of the project. The two icons are links that send you to two different story maps. The first provides us with the mapping of indigenous LA and the second link is the history of Fernandeno Tataviam map. Both story maps offer an interactive and user friendly interface that provides us with links to other sites further explaining aspects, pictures, interviews with Native American historians, etc. The sites are well organized providing us with the writing on the left side and the pictures or videos on the right. The interface answers all of you questions for you as you read. For example, if you didn’t know what a “reed watercraft” was all you need to do is click on the word or phrase and a picture pops up on he right! 

The project accelerates the humanities in the way of organizing indigenous Los Angeles, remembering the Native Americans that are often forgotten and telling the story of Los Angeles before it became the city we know today. It is easily accessible to anyone and it has all the information right there and if it does not it send you to a site that explains the topic deeper. This project gave me ideas for how I want my digital project to turn out. I am hoping for well organized site that is easy to follow and easy to get access to.