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How The Grateful Dead helped to form The Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Grateful Dead are one of the most revered bands of all time. Not in the mainstream sense like The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, but in a way that makes them a cult band of the highest order, and that their legions of fans, the ‘Deadheads’ are perhaps the most dedicated following in all of rock. 

Even today, after the cessation of The Dead in 1995, their many spin-off bands such as Dead & Company and Phil Lesh and Friends, are some of the most sought after live acts on the planet. This can be attributed to the level of esteem each member cultivated for themselves whilst playing in The Dead.

Spearheaded by the late Jerry Garcia, in their time The Grateful Dead were one of, if not the most, prolific group on the planet. The quintessential band of the counterculture, their laidback, jam style was influential to many, and without them, it is safe to say that modern stoner heroes, Phish would not have come into existence.

Kamasi Washington, Lee Ranaldo, Warpaint, My Morning Jacket and Sleater-Kinney are just a handful of other iconic artists who have been greatly influenced by The Dead. Another band who were inspired by The Dead was funk-rock masters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and without the impact of Garcia and the rest, it is quite possible that they would never have formed. 

Anthony Kiedis, frontman of Red Hot Chili Peppers, was raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan until he was 12 years of age before he moved to live with his father in Hollywood, Los Angeles. He enrolled at Fairfax High School, where initially, he struggled to make friends and to ingratiate himself. 

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Soon after enrolling, Kiedis met future bandmate Flea, but it wasn’t initially roses. They had a short teenage confrontation, but afterwards, became best friends after sitting next to each other in class. Of their bond, Kiedis recalled: “We were drawn to each other by the forces of mischief, love, and The Grateful Dead. We became virtually inseparable. We were both social outcasts. We found each other, and it turned out to be the longest-lasting friendship of my life.”

The pair would share a complicated but strong bond that has endured to this day, amidst all the death, drug addiction and all the other classic trappings of fame. Showing just how fruitful their relationship has been, it was Kiedis who introduced Flea to punk. 

In a 2019 interview with The Guardian, discussing his memoir Acid for the Children, Flea remembered how he felt that Kiedis was “the missing link I never considered” after meeting him all those years ago. He said: “Among my friends, I was the guy who was always trying to do something that would freak people out. Then I met Anthony, and he matched me step for step. We got up to all kinds of crazy shit.”

The fact that Kiedis and Flea’s friendship can be traced back to The Grateful Dead is mind-blowing. It is just one of many tales in which two people have shared an inseparable bond over their music, and continue to do so nearly 60 years after they first formed, a true testament to the effortless cool of Garcia and the Dead.

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