Following the popular “Let Trey Sing” trends from the Grateful Dead’s 50th Anniversary Fare Thee Well shows, after Dead & Company formed in 2015, music lover and fellow bassist Chris DiNardo revamped the concept for bassist Oteil Burbridge—who, in addition to his famous bass chops, has quite the voice too. DiNardo was inspired to spread the word about Oteil after spending several summers together at Roots Rock Revival, a camp happening now for the fifth year that was founded by Oteil and Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks. With Oteil’s blessing, the shirt circulated throughout the fan base with frequent “Let Oteil Sing” spottings at Dead & Company shows across the country. Of course, it was at Citi Field in 2016 that Oteil Burbridge took his first verse with Dead & Company—and the rest is history. Taking lead on three songs this summer, Oteil officially “sings” now, but the shirts still carry an important meaning.
As the charity of his choice, Oteil requested that all proceeds from the shirt go to the Gorilla Doctors, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to conserving wild mountain and eastern lowland (or Grauer’s) gorillas in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda through life-saving veterinary medicine and a One Health approach. Its international team of veterinarians is the only group providing these critically endangered animals with direct, hands-on care in the wild. Oteil’s wife, Jess Burbridge, is a freelance photographer, journalist, and designer who currently serves as the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Gorilla Doctors. She specializes in primatology and wildlife conservation issues and has worked with organizations such as The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, The Jane Goodall Institute, The Chimpanzee Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Uganda Wildlife Authority, among others.
Last night, at the 5th annual Roots Rock Revival orientation concert, Oteil was presented with a giant check to commemorate the joint efforts. The “Let Oteil Sing” campaign officially brought in $4,000 to Gorilla Doctors during the 2017 Dead & Company Summer Tour. The money is enough to fund two life-saving medical interventions in the wild. With only 880 mountain gorillas left in the world, every life counts. This summer has become a clear movement between Oteil and his fans to bring awareness to the organization, which he notes has become a “life changing experience.”
While less about Oteil singing and more about giving, read why the “Let Oteil Sing” campaign is important in the words of Oteil below.