Nearly two decades ago, Joan Osborne got stuck with the remaining four members of The Dead. The ultimate goal was to see if she could be the one to join them on the road, replacing the late Jerry Garcia. “It was pretty intense, kind of a Grateful Dead bootcamp experience,” Osborne says.
Getting the gig was the easy part, it turns out.
“It was a pretty steep learning curve,” says Osborne. “I certainly knew some of their music, but I wasn’t a Deadhead before I got that gig. When they go on tour, they have so many hundreds of songs, that every night the show is completely different from the night before. And so it wasn’t like I just had to learn a show. I had to learn hundreds of songs, and it was a different show – and [each] the show lasts four hours – every night.
“So it was a lot of me sitting in the locker room and listening to live recordings that they were telling me to study, and do my vocal parts well during the day. Then in the evening it was a show of four And then I’d collapse into my bunk on the tour bus, then get up the next day and do it again.
Osborne makes time to shoot his own solo material – including his new album radio waves and the critically acclaimed 2020s Troubles and conflicts — to dive back into the world of the dead, ahead of next week’s “The Days Between” festival.
The annual celebration of Garcia, his life and his career takes place over the nine days between what was his birthday, August 1, and the day of his death in 1995, August 9.
Hamilton Live has scheduled four concerts focusing on the dead, including one on Saturday August 6, featuring Osborne accompanied by his regular collaborator Jack Petruzzelli, as well as Marc Muller of the tribute band Dead On Live.
(Dead On Live will feature a note-for-note recreation of the Grateful Dead’s Europe 72 album on Friday, August 5 at the Hamilton.)
“It’s a tribute to Jerry Garcia, so that’s what we’re going to play,” says Osborne, who admits she’ll include one of her own hits, 1995’s “One of Us,” in the mix.
“I’m unlikely to be able to leave the stage without singing this song,” she said. Osborne never got tired of singing the song, written by Eric Bazillion.
“If you have to have a pop song that you’re known around the world for, it’s a good song,” she says.
“It really has these deeper meanings – it’s about faith, it’s about your relationship to the sacred. And every time we start the song, you can see people’s eyes light up and you can feel the excitement of the What a wonderful thing to do and have in your professional life, so I’m so thankful that the song has the impact it has and that people still want me to sing it.
“The Days Between: Joan Osborne Tribute to Jerry Garcia” is Saturday, August 6 at 8 p.m. at Hamilton Live, 600 14th St. NW. Tickets cost between $35 and $65. Visit live.thehamiltondc.com or call 202-787-1000.