You might think that the biggest concert ever in New Jersey was by Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi or some other homegrown group, but you’d be wrong. The biggest show was by a group that hails from the other side of the country, but always had a rabid following in the Garden State (and plenty of other states, as well): The Grateful Dead.
On Sept. 3, 1977 — the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend that year — the group headlined an outdoor show at Raceway Park in Englishtown that attracted more than 100,000 people. The New Riders of the Purple Sage and The Marshall Tucker Band also performed. Below is a recording of the Dead jamming on “Eyes of the World” at that show.
The show went off peacefully, though it generated some controversy beforehand. “This was the height of the generation gap,” promoter John Scher told The Star-Ledger in 2012. “The mayor thought that Armageddon was coming. They sued to try to stop the show. We had 100,000 people there and it was fantastic.”
In 1999, a three-CD set documenting the concert was released as part of the Grateful Dead’s “Dick’s Picks” series of concert recordings.
New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday in 2014. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we marked the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, from September 2014 to September 2015 — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. To see the entire list, click here.