Richard “Ram Dass” Alpert, a former Harvard Psychologist-turned-psychedelic pioneer, and a spiritual icon to many around the world, left his physical body on Sunday at the age of 88.
Ram Dass first gained national notoriety after he and colleague Timothy Leary were kicked out of Harvard for their controversial but groundbreaking research on the use of psychedelic drugs for mental health benefits and internal enlightenment in the early 1960s.
While his journey eventually led him to focus on spreading Eastern spirituality teachings to Westerners beginning in the late-1960s and throughout the rest of his life, Ram Dass maintained his connection with the “Counterculture” movement and the Grateful Dead over the years, as the band performed many benefit concerts for his Seva Foundation.
The non-profit was co-founded alongside noted hippie, activist, and Grateful Dead ally, Wavy Gravy. Additionally, Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir is still an active board member for the Seva Foundation.
The band headlined the first-ever benefit show for the Seva Foundation, which took place at the Oakland Auditorium Arena in Oakland, CA almost 40 years ago on December 26th, 1979. The performance was later released by the band and their archivist Dick Lavata as Dick’s Picks Volume 5 in May 1996.
Relive the band’s first of many benefit shows via the Spotify player below.
Grateful Dead – Seva Foundation Benefit – 12/26/1979
Weir, Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, and many more notable musicians would go on to raise money for Ram Dass and the Seva Foundation over the years with annual benefit shows. The most recent took place earlier this year for the “Sing Out for Seva” event back in January, which celebrated the non-profit’s 40th anniversary. Browne, along with Bonnie Raitt, Joan Osborne, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Pura Fe & Cary Morin all performed.
Fare thee well Ram Dass–Thank you for teaching us to “Be Here Now,” and for showing the world that sometimes there’s more to be seen than meets the eye.