VIP Phil Lesh

Phil Lesh (b. March 15, 1940)

Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh's "intellectual, articulate and reflective" book, Searching for the Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead (2005, Little, Brown) includes Lesh's description of the band's "forays into mind-altering substances" at a time when LSD was still legal and the Dead provided the soundtrack to those revivals of the ancient Eleusinian mysteries, dubbed by Joseph Campbell as Dionysian festivals, the Acid Tests.

"For me and my friends, these drugs (pot, acid, the other "ethogens [sic? entheogens?] were seen as tools -- tools to enhance awareness, to expand our horizons, to access other levels of mind, to manifest the numinous and sacred, tools that had been used for thousands of years by shamans, by oracles, in the ancient mystery schools, by all whose mission was to penetrate beyond the veil of illusion . . . These experiences were not embarked upon as escape from 'reality' -- they were explorations into the superreal."

After a funny anecdote in which drummer Mickey Hart had to reacquaint Lesh with his bass before a show where too many people had spiked the backstage apple juice with acid, the book details how Keith and Donna Godchaux and other late-comers to the band abused drugs and paid the price; also Jerry Garcia's decent into heroin, and Lesh's own alcoholism and cocaine abuse, both of which he regrets.

In his 70s, Lesh is still going strong, demonstrating how much of the Grateful Dead's magical mix owed to Lesh's bass.

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