Friday, June 21, 2024

Grateful Dead Honor Bill Walton: ‘Biggest Deadhead in the World’

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The surviving members of the Grateful Dead paid tribute to Bill Walton, the NBA Hall of Famer and famed Deadhead who died on Monday from cancer at 71.

The band’s offshoot Dead & Company posted a statement on social media, writing, “Bill was an irreplaceable force and spirit in our family. Father Time, Rhythm Devil, biggest deadhead ever. Over 1,000 shows and couldn’t get enough. He loved this band and we loved him.”

Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann wrote their own heartfelt statements. “Yo Bill, thanks for the ride,” wrote Weir, posting photos with the athlete. “Thanks for the wonderful friendship, the years of color commentary — and the Hall of Fame existence that you wore like headlights.” 

Both drummers wrote lengthy tributes, with Hart describing Walton as “the best friend I ever had,” paired with a photo of the duo laughing together. “He called himself the luckiest man in the world but it was us who were lucky — to know him, to share the adventure with him,” he said. “He was the biggest Deadhead in the world and used our music as the soundtrack to his life. After our shows, he would regularly send messages that said, ‘thank you for my life.’ … There are things you can replace. And others you cannot. Bon voyage, old friend, I love you.” 


Meanwhile, Kreutzmann revealed he has “incredible” stories about Walton he promised him he’d only share after Walton died. “It’s not nearly that time yet because before we laugh, first we must allow ourselves to cry,” he wrote. “Darn it. This is a mournful day.

“In many ways, he was our number one fan… but Bill would’ve taken issue with that ranking because, while he won many awards in his storied basketball career — including MVP — Bill insisted that the Grateful Dead was not a competition — and that all Deadheads were equal,” he added. “Whenever I play, there will now always be a hole where a seat should be, about ten rows back, center, where Bill used to stand, eyes closed, arms raised, while he felt the music running through him. That was a happy place for him and seeing him out there was one of mine … I loved Bill Walton. As we say in the land of the Dead: May the four winds blow him safely home.” 

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