Philip Chapman Lesh was born on March 15th, 1940 in Berkeley, California. Having been exposed to jazz greats such as John Coltrane and Miles Davis, Lesh began playing trumpet at the age of 14.
He enrolled at UC Berkeley to become a music major. However, a friend and he became disappointed by the music program's tendency to discourage individual creativity. Halfway through his first semester at Berkeley, Lesh dropped out. He enrolled himself in a class at Mill's College taught by composer Luciano Berio, where he was finally able to compose his own music. Lesh returned to California the following summer where he met Jerry Garcia. They quickly became friends after Lesh heard Garcia play in Kepler's bookstore. The friendship was solidified when Lesh asked him to play on the radio show for which he was an engineer
In 1965 Lesh began playing bass for the Warlocks, which would soon become the Grateful Dead. He remained a part of the group for the rest of their time together, becoming a fan favorite for his distinctive bass playing and for his single-minded devotion to the Dead's music. Jerry Garcia's death in1995 signaled the end of the Grateful Dead as a touring entity. Lesh reunited with band mates Bob Weir and Mickey Hart, becoming the Other Ones and headlined the 1998 Further Festival. Later that year he learned he was in desperate need of a liver transplant and underwent a successful surgery that December. The Sunday before he went into surgery, Deadheads across the world joined in 'Five Minutes for Phil,' a global prayer circle he later credited as a huge factor in his quick recovery. Lesh hit the road in 1999 as a headliner and released his solo debut 'Love Will See You Through' in the fall.
Phil is unlike any other bassist rock has produced, a sophisticated innovator as well as a rhythmic machine. Lesh co-wrote a number of Dead classics including "New Potato Caboose," "Saint Stephen," "Cumberland Blues," "Box of Rain," "Unbroken Chain" and "Passenger'. Anytime you heard the Dead improvise on "Dark Star" or "The Other One" Phil was in the middle of it all, always pushing in new directions, creating chaos and perhaps later easing the music into a serene clarity.
Now, that the Grateful Dead days are over, Phil Lesh has been reinvented, and almost everyone agrees he's never sounded better. He compares his new band, Phil Lesh and Friends, to the Dead during their early, most experimental days. The group plays in smaller theaters and arenas, allowing Lesh to share with his audience in the deep emotional way that has found its place in his new music and songs. He's become a tireless advocate for organ donation since his transplant operation, and his Unbroken Chain Foundation has donated money to many needy causes. His wife Jill and sons Grahame and Brian are the center of his life, but he's managed to find a balance with his family that allows him to play a couple of tours each year, bringing his music live to fans new and old around the world.
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