Recounting a Life with Music Legends

by Abigail W. Adams of the Lincoln County News


 

 

On Dec. 10, 1967, Richard Loren watched Jim Morrison get arrested onstage in New Haven, Conn. – Loren booked the concert.

On Sept. 16, 1978, Richard Loren watched the Grateful Dead perform their final show in Egypt under a lunar eclipse, in front of The Great Pyramid – word came at the end of the performance that a peace deal between Egypt and Israel, the Camp David Accords, had been reached. Loren organized the performance.

On Friday, Jan. 23, Loren spoke to a packed crowd at the Skidompha Library in Damariscotta about his recently published memoir “High Notes,” an intimate portrait of Loren’s journey, which brought him center stage to the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, and shoulder to shoulder with the musical icons that helped shape it.

“I’m a believer in following your intuition and following your heart,” Loren, a Nobleboro resident, said. Loren’s heart pushed him to join the drama club in college in the early 1960s to spend time with a girl. The experience instilled in him a lasting love for theater and the arts.

Loren’s intuition and heart would continue to push him into a career shaped by chance encounters and serendipitous events – a career where he earned the distinction of being called “one of the best mangers we’d had” by Grateful Dead bass player Phil Lesh.

Loren’s memoir begins in his early years, fresh out of college, when he met Liberace. Liberace lobbied the agency that represented him to hire Loren as an agent. In the midst of the social upheaval of the mid-’60s, Loren was hired to book talent for colleges and given the task of seeking out musicians that spoke to the frustrations and aspirations of youth.

Through a combination of chance, hard work, and destiny, Loren became the East Coast booking agent for The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Steppenwolf, the Chamber Brothers, and others.

“It was my awakening,” said Loren, who described himself as a clean-cut kid before his introduction to the rock-and-roll lifestyle. “The music shaped my life.”

In his years as an agent, Loren toured with the musicians he represented, and personally experienced the creative and destructive powers of their personalities.

“It was beautiful and chaotic,” Loren said of Jim Morrison’s performances. “You could see the muse working through him.”

Loren chronicled the highs and lows he experienced with Morrison, and some failed efforts to manage his substance abuse. His death wasn’t a surprise, Loren wrote. “Jim was like a shooting star,” Loren said. “They come out, they say their thing, and then they’re gone.”

The awe and inspiration Loren felt for the musicians he represented caused him to become disillusioned with the unethical business practices of the industry he worked for. While on an acid trip during a tour in Europe, Loren decided to quit his job as an agent and open himself up to unknown possibilities.

A few years later, in 1972, through a combination of chance, hard work, and destiny, Loren began to work for Jerry Garcia as the manager of his independent music ventures, such as the Jerry Garcia Band and Old and in the Way. “He was a mentor to me as a human being,” Loren said of his relationship with Garcia.

Loren described Garcia as intelligent, well-read, able to make everyone feel like a friend, and having a rare combination of “humility and strength of skill.”

“He was the leaderless leader,” Loren said. “He never sought the limelight. He was driven solely by the music.”

Loren said he once asked Garcia why he was so quiet on stage. Garcia told him that on an acid trip, he looked at a stage and saw Hitler. “He realized the power that you have speaking from the stage,” Loren said. According to Loren, this is one of the reasons why the Grateful Dead never became political or aligned with a protest movement, despite the strength of their following.

Loren would go on to work as manager of the Grateful Dead from 1974 to 1981 and live through the highs and lows of the chaos and unpredictability of their lifestyle. “It wasn’t just a band,” Loren said. “The Grateful Dead was a family.”

The Grateful Dead operated as a collective with roadies and musicians treated as equals. In the early years, Loren said, the group handled all aspects of the business themselves. The crew was distrustful of outsiders and “suits,” Loren said, and had a history of conflict with managers. They also had large appetites and spent the majority of their earnings on their lifestyle.

The difficulties and frustrations Loren encountered working as their manager were worth it, he said, when he thinks of his experience with the Grateful Dead in Egypt. Loren had a vision of the Grateful Dead playing at the Sphinx Theater in Giza in 1974 when he visited Egypt on vacation after the Grateful Dead went on a short hiatus.

Four years later, the Grateful Dead performed three shows at the base of The Great Pyramid. The last performance was during a lunar eclipse. While on stage, they got news that the Camp David Accords had been signed.

“It was one of the most amazing moments in my life and in the history of the Grateful Dead,” Loren said. “It was a fat trip – as Jerry would say.”

In 1981, Loren left the Grateful Dead. He continued to work with Jerry Garcia; however, heroin use was beginning to take its toll on him, Loren wrote. Garcia had less energy and became more withdrawn as his dependency on heroin increased. Jerry Garcia died of a heart attack in rehab in 1995. “That big heart had just worn out its body,” Loren wrote.

Loren has worked on several projects, started a couple of businesses, and lived in Italy since his time with Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead. He moved to Nobleboro with his partner, Deborah Lang, in 2004, to help care for Lang’s elderly parents, Ted and Betty Lang.

Loren has crossed paths with numerous musical and cultural icons in his life. He breakfasted at the Kennedy compound in Virginia and saw John Lennon sloppy drunk at a club. For all the people that he has met, Loren named Betty Lang as one of the most incredible.

“One of the greatest gifts of my life was to be in the presence of the mother of the woman I love,” Loren said.

For Loren, community music, the small act of a group of friends playing for the sheer enjoyment of it, is one of the most important things happening in music today. He said here in Lincoln County he is surrounded by it.

It was in Lincoln County that Loren wrote his memoir, a process that Loren described as “a spiritual pilgrimage.” Loren published his memoir “High Notes” in November 2014 through his own company, East Pond Publishing. Its logo is the Damariscotta Lake with flying saucers over it.