Remembering President Obama’s Message to the Grateful Dead in the Fare Thee Well Programs

July 4, 2020

On Sunday, FANS.com will rebroadcast all three Fare Thee Well shows from Chicago on July 3-5 in which Grateful Dead alums Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart took the stage together to celebrate the Dead’s 50th anniversary, along with Trey Anastasio, Bruce Hornsby and Jeff Chimenti.

Relix produced three daily programs for the event and the July 3 edition included a special salute from President Barack Obama. The President contributed a message of congratulations to the band and supplied a photo from a moment in which Weir, Lesh, Hart and Kreutzmann had visited the White House with their families. President Obama’s message reads as follows: “Here’s to fifty years of the Grateful Dead, an iconic American band that embodies the creativity, passion and ability to bring people together that makes American music so great. Enjoy this weekend’s celebration of your fans and legacy. And as Jerry would say, ‘Let there be songs to fill the air.’”

Relix editor Dean Budnick, who also edited the programs, recalls, “The whole thing was a stealth mission. I wanted to keep it from the band members until they saw it in the program. I had approached the President’s press secretary Josh Earnest to see if the President would be interested in contributing a message. I figured we had a chance because the band members had been supportive of him on the campaign trail and Chicago was his town. [Back in October 2008 Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart reunited to perform at the Change Rocks event for then-candidate Barack Obama. They later took the stage at the Mid-Atlantic Inaugural ball in January 2009.]

“Josh passed our request along to Amy Brundage in the Communications office and the game was afoot. I received the message and image on the late afternoon of July 2 just a few hours before we closed out day one of the program. We promised to post from the official Dead50 Facebook page at 5 PM on July 3 and then the White House would share. All of this made for a exhilarating first day in Chicago before the music elevated the action.”