(cross posted to a few hippie LJs)
The New York Tie-Dye Mafia lost a dear brother today.Ed Donahue
, credited as being the first guy to silkscreen his art onto a tie-dye t-shirt and sell it in the parking lot of their concerts, passed away after an extended battle with cancer.
In 1987 or '88 I bought the tie-dye version of this Ed Donahue shirt in a head shop in Chicago called the Bizarre Bazaar:
Years later, via my friendships with Mikio and the rest of the Tie-Dye Mafia I met Ed Donahue and a couple years ago travelled with Ed from the Chicago Other Ones show to New York, stayed the night at Ed's and met his wife and children, and went back to my New York dwelling.
He was, indeed, a gentle, wise and caring soul. The "true brother" that one goes to Dead parking lots to meet. The sort that are in huge demand and all too often short supply.
Ed started selling tie-dyes on Dead Tour in the early '70s. '72 or '73 I believe he told me. To the end, he hand pulled all of his screens and made all his own dyes, an unheard of phenomenon. He did one licensed design for the Dead, but never cashed in when the band went big. He was a purist to the end.
In a memorial page to Ed on the Terrapin Presents message board Mikio
posted the following image:
Ed is the bearded strawberry blonde dude in the short sleeve shirt in the middle row.
The photo was taken at the 1993 Bess Cutler Gallery Rock Art show. I flew from Boulder to that show and it was my first east coast interaction with many of the guys who would become my friends, coworkers, and fellow miscreants and while I didn't know Ed at the time, one detail about the photo caught my attention: over everyone's shoulder there is a round bellied guy with a moustache and a half a woman in a skirt. The round bellied guy is Jeff Martell. The half a person next to him is presumably his wife of the time Polly Parker, my best friend since oh, six lifetimes ago or something... These were the two people I went to Bess Cutler with.
Over Thanksgiving I ran into Barry Sundancer, an old friend of Ed and the rest of the Old School Tour Alumni, at the Rex Foundation String Cheese benefit and he told me that Ed did not have long for this world and that I should gather up the Tie-Dye Mafia and get them to Ed's bedside as soon as possible. Sadly, we were unable to get there soon enough to send our brother off in person, but we'll be singing him back home in spirit.
It's been a fascinating journey for me to meet and have interactions with so many of the people who inspired me so much in my youth. Buying a t-shirt in a head shop or parking lot and later meeting and becoming trusted friends of the artists may not seem such a big deal, indeed, it really isn't, but I find that one of the curious blessings of my existence is the degree to which I've been able to meet and interact with almost ALL of the people who most inspired me in my youth. OK, so I didn't have that sit-down chat with Jerry about comic books that I'd always thought would have been fascinating (Jerry Garcia was a big comic book afficianado) but he touched me so much through music and life that I know him better than many of my own flesh and blood. And, Jerry aside, I really do feel this great sense of blessing to have met people like Ed who were able to transform culture through a simple act like selling a tie-dyed t-shirt in a parking lot in the early '70s.
Mikio wrote: "Thanks to you Ed, I've had the courage to make a living at my art and never punch the man's time clock. Your innovation was the gate to freedom we all slipped through. You blow me away and I love you forever."
Most people don't know it, but one man started the Grateful Dead microcosm known as Shakedown Street and that man died today.
Ed, we love you! And our Love is Real, Not Fade Away!!!
Thanks for the magic!