Grateful Dead Members Pay Tribute to Bill Walton: “Biggest Deadhead in the World”

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The post Grateful Dead Members Pay Tribute to Bill Walton: “Biggest Deadhead in the World” appeared first on Consequence.

NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton, who passed away from cancer at 71 years old on Monday (May 27th), was a devoted Grateful Dead fan who attended upwards of 1,000 shows during his lifetime. After news of his death broke, several band members paid tribute to the “biggest Deadhead in the world.”

Offshoot group Dead & Company shared a statement on social media reading, “Bill was an irreplaceable force and spirit in our family. Father Time, Rhythm Devil, biggest deadhead ever. Over 1000 shows and couldn’t get enough. He loved this band and we loved him.”

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Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann posted individual tributes of their own, with Weir writing, “Thanks for the wonderful friendship, the years of color commentary — and the Hall of Fame existence that you wore like headlights. Bon voyage ol’ buddy. We’re sure gonna miss you — but don’t let that slow you down.”

Hart described Walton as “the best friend I ever had” in the caption of a photo of the two. “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 added. “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.'”

Meanwhile, Kreutzmann teased “incredible stories” about Walton he promised to tell only after his friend died. “It’s not nearly that time yet because before we laugh, first we must allow ourselves to cry,” he said. “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 continued, “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.”

In a separate statement, Dead & Company guitarist John Mayer added, “One of Bill’s great talents was to reorient you so as to stand [beside] him and see the light in life that he refused to break eye contact with. The climb to acceptance is steep in the Grateful Dead universe, and Bill gave me a huge lift up those stairs with his kindness, his encouragement, and his friendship. He will be so deeply missed, but his approach to life will never be forgotten.”

Back in 2015, Walton compared the Grateful Dead to a “great basketball team” in an interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune. “One of the things I love so much about basketball is the same thing I love about the Grateful Dead,” he said. “You go to a Dead show and there are no restraints on what will happen. The band creates this phenomenal atmosphere, out of nothing, and it’s the same in a basketball game.”

Walton won two championships with the Portland Trail Blazers and Boston Celtics during his 13-year NBA career and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1978. He retired after an aborted comeback in 1990, and went on to have a lengthy broadcasting career — during which he would often mention the Grateful Dead on air.

Grateful Dead Members Pay Tribute to Bill Walton: “Biggest Deadhead in the World”
Eddie Fu

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