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Final Grateful Dead Show Breaks Record at Chicago Stadium

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The Grateful Dead have put on their final performance together—and it was a record breaker.

The band played on Sunday night at Chicago’s Soldier Field as part of their “Thee Well, A Tribute To The Grateful Dead” tour, and the stadium said 71,000 tickets were sold for the show, the Associated Press reports—more than any other event held at the stadium.

The stadium, which also saw the Grateful Dead play shows on Friday and Saturday night, said that 70,764 and 70,844 tickets were sold for the band’s earlier performances.

The previous record holder at Soldier Field—U2—performed in 2009 concert that sold 67,936 tickets.

The Enduring Legacy of Jerry Garcia

The Long, Strange Trip Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead forged a completely unique musical identity, playing thousands of concerts over a 30-year period. Though Garcia's death in August 1995 effectively ended the band's touring days, the Dead's music and cultural influence have continued to grow. Digital copies of the band's concerts continue to sell briskly via iTunes and fan sites, while a Hollywood biopic about Garcia is in the works, and a pair of Deadhead marketing experts have just released a book that posits the band as an ideal model for marketing in the Internet age. Oh, if that's not enough, Cherry Garcia remains Ben and Jerry's No. 1–selling flavor. RB/Redferns/Getty Images
Photo of Jerry Garcia
Dead to the Core The crux of the Grateful Dead's musical identity was the band's willingness to constantly experiment. No song was ever played the same way twice, and no two concerts are remotely alike. This jam-band approach has been successfully co-opted by a number of contemporary groups like Phish and the Dave Matthews Band. Paul Ryan—Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images
Scully, Garcia, and Wolfe Talking on the Sidewalk
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test The Dead gained its early audience by performing as the house band at the many LSD parties, known as "acid tests," that were organized widely in the Bay Area in the mid-1960s. The scene, centered on the intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets, was later memorialized in a best-selling work by Tom Wolfe, who stands with Garcia and Dead manager Rock Sculley in this 1966 photo. Ted Streshinsky—Corbis
The Grateful Dead At the Family Dog
The Music Never Stopped The free-flowing approach to music that the band perfected over three decades of playing together was possible because of the extraordinary abilities of the musicians Garcia partnered with. After his death, guitarist Bob Weir and bassist Phil Lesh formed a series of bands — the current incarnation is called Furthur — while drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart (not visible in this photo) lead the group the Rhythm Devils. In 1970, when this photo was taken, the group included Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, rear left, who sang and played keyboards and harmonica. He died in 1973. Robert Altman—Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Jerry Garcia Getting into Car with Suitcase
My Love Is Bigger Than a Cadillac Small-scale tributes to Garcia and the band abound. More than a dozen musical artists paid tribute to the guitarist at the 25th annual Jerry Garcia Birthday Bash in West Virginia; The Grateful Dead Hour, a radio program hosted by David Gans, can be heard on 73 stations throughout the U.S.; and the San Francisco Giants will give out Garcia bobble-head dolls at their game against the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 9, the anniversary of his death. Roger Ressmeyer—Corbis
Grateful Dead live
Spinach Jam A critical component of the band's enduring popularity is the visceral connection Garcia et al established with the group's fans, known as Deadheads. Unlike virtually any other act, the Dead encouraged its audience to record its shows and did not object when digital copies of those recordings were made available on the Internet (as long as no one took a profit from the sale of the music). In their book Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History, authors Brian Halligan and David Meerman Scott relate that this unorthodox business model actually proved wildly successful. By giving away its music, the band brought in new fans and increased sales from concerts, records and merchandise. Ed Perlstein—Redferns/Getty Images
Photo of Jerry Garcia
Captain Trips For most of the band's career, Garcia and his fellow musicians did not live the glamorous life that one commonly associates with top rock acts. Though money flowed in, the band was terrible at managing itself or finding someone trustworthy to do it. And in many ways, Garcia was cool with that. The Dead scene is more "inclusive than exclusive," he said in a 1967 interview. It has more to do "with integrity ... The point is, we're not trying to be famous or rich, we're just trying to make our music as well as we can and get it out." Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
The Grateful Dead
Truckin' In 2008, the band donated its archives to the University of California at Santa Cruz. The collection, which includes documents related to the band's history, fan-generated art and letters, photographs, posters, stage pieces and more, will be open to the public. An assortment of pieces was featured at an exhibit at the Museum of New York in March 2010. Of Garcia's two most famous guitars, dubbed Rosebud and Tiger (played above by Garcia in a 1981 Berkeley, Calif., concert), the former belongs to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, while the latter was purchased by a private collector — Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts football team. Clayton Call—Redferns
Jerry and the Mountain Boys Concert 1988 - Palo Alto CA
Acoustic Set During his lifetime, Garcia was known for his unrelenting obsession with music. He was rarely seen without a guitar in his hands, and he played in numerous other musical groups besides the Dead. He played jazz with Merl Saunders and Ornette Coleman, contributed to albums by the Jefferson Airplane and Crosby, Still, Nash & Young and formed a bluegrass group with mandolinist David Grisman, Old and in the Way, among other projects. Tim Mosenfelder—Getty Images
Jerry Garcia, David Letterman
In on the Joke During their 1982 appearance on David Letterman's show, Bob Weir and Garcia joked with the Late Night host about the '60s, the origin of the term Deadhead and the band's willingness to let its fans record concerts. "The shows aren't the same ever," Garcia says, "not even remotely, so when we're done with it, they can have it." David McGough—Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
Jerry Garcia
Not Fade Away Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead performs in concert circa 1987.L. Busacca—WireImage/Getty Images

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