Grateful Dead

Remembering Owsley "Bear" Stanley

Owsley "Bear" Stanley died in a car crash in Australia on March 13. Few who knew him would have been surprised if he had chosen to live forever. He managed better than most other people to bend reality to suit his wishes and beliefs.

And he had some weird beliefs. One night in 1983, he came to Phil Lesh's house with a sheaf of maps and delivered a lecture of a couple of hours' duration, explaining how a thermal cataclysm would begin with a storm over Baffin Bay in Canada and suck all the heat out of the atmosphere, rendering most of the planet uninhabitable by humans. He showed us a climate map showing mean temperatures at the peak of the last Ice Age, and pointed to a spot in Australia where there was both habitable climate and land underfoot – and where he already owned property. He had a sheaf of visa applications to distribute to his audience so we could begin the emigration process immediately. Lesh demurred, stating that if this climate-change catastrophe were to take place, he'd climb up onto the ridge behind his then-home and watch it go down. "When your number's oop, it's oop," said someone else, quoting George Harrison.

It seemed pretty crackpottish at the time, and of course the predicted event did not go down on the date he forecast – but I recognize now that Bear was the first person I knew to bring up a subject that is today a huge and urgent matter: climate change.

He was into everything.

The last time I saw him was in June of 2007, on what I believe was his last visit to the States. I thought then that he wasn't long for this world. He had had a cardiac bypass (a result, he told me without irony, of the vegetables he had been fed as a child) and been treated for throat cancer, and as a result he was unable to swallow solid food and had a great deal of trouble talking. From his posture, I gathered his neck was fused or the muscles had been damaged; he seemed unable to move his head much. My wife saw him with a blender making a puree of nearly-raw meat and deviled eggs.

Our mutual friend, luthier and Alembic co-founder Rick Turner, got to the party after I left. His take: "Yes, Bear was a pretty crumpled sight at first, but he got going pretty well. He could fool us all."

I have nearly six hours of tape from our January 1991 interview, which was published in the book Conversations with the Dead. I'm sharing it here because I thought you all might be interested in what he sounded like. As Bob Weir told me a few days after Bear died: “He got plenty done this time around.”

Audio excerpts from an interview with Bear January 13, 1991

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8


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Joined: Jun 5 2007

David, this is great, man. Thanx for posting what you did. I would love to hear the entire session. If You could get back to me at: TICDS@SBCGlobal.Net, I'd like to talk with you about it.

GRTUD's picture
Joined: Jun 4 2007
You All R Coming In...

... loud and weird! Hahahaha! This stuff is priceless! WOW!

unkle sam's picture
Joined: Oct 3 2008
The Oz

Thank you so much for these gems of enlightment from a true pioneer and genius. I have listened to the first part and I got to say, you just can't contain his mind, and what and ear attached to that mind, and to use an osceloscope to see musical signatures, I had seen this in practice once or twice while in the service back in the early 70's, several ET's and other heads had tried some of these techniques to view music signatures, but I'm sure not to the extent that Bear had used it, mostly as a novelty, but it was cool to see the influence certain notes and sounds made on the scope and it's wavy bounding bending wavelength lines. I can just see Bear at the board saying " There, right there, that's Jerry's guitar on the scope" how cool is that. Way, way ahead of his time, there is more, much more just in part one, can't wait to hear the rest, part one concludes with Bear starting a section on plants and particular cactus.........Thanks again David, I am so glad you recorded this.

d0ti5's picture
Joined: Jun 5 2007
Very nice

Good to hear his voice; another one too large to be contained in this world. ☮ {8^{>

Joined: Feb 14 2010

Does anyone have any idea on how to download this interview so I can burn it to CD and give to a few friends that dont do the internet thing so well?? This is interview is fantastic, thanks David.

GRTUD's picture
Joined: Jun 4 2007
Many Grateful Thanks!

I'm certain I'll enjoy every minute of these interviews.

easy70wind's picture
Joined: Feb 5 2011

A true 'spirit' who helped open up a beautiful world to me.

Long live Bear, keep on dancing .

Joined: Jun 11 2007
da bear

robert s.costill ,wow sounds like alot of conversations me and my buds used to have about what the ergot was really doing ,and reality versus perceived reality,but he still sounded really excited and energized by the experience ,he sounds alot like jerry ,jeez I would have loved to hear those two talking about some of this stuff!

castle17's picture
Joined: Feb 12 2008
My thanks, too

I had been disappointed that nothing much had been posted on the site after he died, so this comes as a much welcomed read and listen.

appreciated, David

josh e bear's picture
Joined: Feb 29 2008
Hey David > About Bear > Thanks

Thanks 4 Sharing these audio files of you and bear talking. I did read your book and this interview in 93 or 94 when the book came out. I found the part about Bear wanting 2 rig the pyramids for sound for those egypt shows an intersting part....

May He R.I.P. with all the other family memebers who have left the earth ..

Peace in the stars ~

Josh E Bear !!


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