In Memoriam: Owsley “Bear” Stanley

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One of the patriarchs of the Grateful Dead scene, Owsley “Bear” Stanley, passed away today after a car crash in Australia. Bear was responsible for the Dead’s iconic logo, the recording of many shows throughout the band’s career and his revolutionary methods of engineering sound at live performances. He also was one helluva LSD cook. Our friends at did a wonderful job detailing Bear’s life and legacy. He was believed to be in his mid 70s, but like lots of stuff in Bear’s life, he never let anyone know exactly how old he was.

Bob Weir, founding member of the Grateful Dead and currently of Furthur, shared some thoughts on Bear with his Facebook followers

I met Owsley at the age of eighteen. I had just left home, having run off with a Rock&Roll band. Bear, as we knew him, was one of my all-time biggest influences. Always, when I think of him, I think of the endless stuff he taught me or somehow made me realize; all stuff that I’ve been able to use to the benefit of countless people.

Most important was the approach he taught me: Always be open and engaging – always critical and questioning, but not negatively so much as playfully.

He taught me to take myself and my interests out of the picture and work with the subject under consideration so that the best deductions or conclusions are made. I guess this means working from the point of view of the higher self, though that term never came up; it was always just assumed…

Phil Lesh also paid tribute to Owsley via Furthur’s message board

I received a text in the middle of last night that Bear Stanley has died in a car accident in Australia. Bear, for me, was a true kindred spirit; when we first met, it was as if I had met a long-lost brother from another lifetime. I am heartbroken and devastated at his passing.

He was a friend, a brother, an inspiration, and our patron at the very beginning of our creative lives. We owe him more than what can be counted or added up- his was a mind that refused to accept limits, and he reinforced in us that striving for the infinite, the refusal to accept the status quo, that has informed so much of our work.

He never gave up his quest for pushing the limits of whatever he was working on. We had just been discussing his concept of point-source sound reinforcement in relation to a new project of mine, and his vision incorporated the latest developments in technology and perceptual research.

My heart goes out to his family, for whom he had such love and pride- his wife Sheilah, his children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren- who have lost their patriarch.

A mind like Bear’s appears very rarely, and it’s been my privilege and honor to have known and loved two such minds- Jerry and Bear. I always laugh when I think about what Jerry once said about Bear: There’s nothing wrong with Bear that several billion fewer brain cells wouldn’t fix.

I am eternally grateful for all of the gifts that Bear brought to the scene and to the music.

Fare you well; I love you more than words can tell.

Our thoughts on prayers go out to Bear’s family.

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5 thoughts on “In Memoriam: Owsley “Bear” Stanley

  1. Augustus Westus Reply

    Rest in peace, brother. And thank you for the great music. Your recordings will live on, as will your spirit. Give Jer, Kesey and Leary my best…

  2. Kalakala Reply

    The ones that seem to have had the greatest ability to control the axis of the earth and the direction of humanity often are the ones behind the shadows, the ones out of the limelight and publicity.

    Much of modern American culture is owed to this man, and very few realize it. Mention his name to most anyone and they won’t know who you are talking about, but many, many facets of lives would have turned out differently without him.

    You are, and always will be remembered, O, and that is the truest measure of a human being.

  3. Kid Charlemagne Reply

    just before last night’s show, Phil said he did something he hasn’t done in a long time. Phil said he had a steak, just for Bear…

  4. Clear Reply

    What the majority of people don’t understand is that you were so much more than just a chemist or a sound man, a logo designer or someone who had a smart brain. I just had to fix something it my kitchen tonight and was having problems trying to fix it. It was a mechanical thing and I said to myself how would Bear fix it and two seconds later it was fixed. You were so mechanical & good at fixing things not to mention you created some beautiful jewelry pieces. Your appreciation for nature & quiet country living and cooking on a open fire was something I always liked. Plus you made the best brownies. Going out to dinner was always fun. I am sure you will be missed at the Panama. I am not even going to say RIP because wherever you are you are surely cooking a steak or simmering chicken stock polishing belt buckles or doing something while telling a good story.

  5. skelter helter Reply

    we love you bear and will always miss you. when i found out the news i drew a tear drop on all of my bear patches they miss their fathers all of them. well bear you knew the grateful dead better then most. now your part of the gratefully dead. and the rest of you please be careful we only have so many of you guys left. forever grateful but not quite dead. loven you family

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