Bob Weir at Soldier Field over the summer Credit: Jay Blakesberg

Today is Bob Weir’s 68th birthday. Known and revered as a founding member of the Grateful Dead and one of the greatest rhythm guitarists of all time, Weir is an iconic member of the 1960s San Francisco free-love, acid-drenched hippie movement, and one hell of a songwriter. The Dead gets a lot of hate, largely due to the stigma of the Deadhead subculture—the stereotypical tie-dyed, stinky, burnt-out, hemp-adorned nomads who followed the band religiously until cofounding member Jerry Garcia died in 1995, and those who went on to worship their far inferior (and most of the time, just plain bad) jam-band successors. But if you look past the people and the ideas that the Dead are far too often associated with—and I’ll admit, it took most of my life to do just that—you’ll discover an expansive catalog of brilliant songs that range from swirling psychedelia, warm country, and rowdy rock. It was Weir’s role in the band to anchor guitarist Garcia’s meandering leads, and the former’s rhythmic style was endlessly interesting and impossible to pin down, basing his chords on the jumpy, spastic playing of jazz pianist McCoy Tyner. And when Weir wasn’t the band’s rock, his velvety pipes were its secret weapon. Today’s 12 O’Clock Track is one of Weir’s finest moments, the sweeping “Jack Straw,” from the Europe ’72 live record. Mellow tempos and beautiful vocal interplay between Weir and Garcia sum up what was so great about the Dead in less than five minutes. Forget everything you think you know about the Grateful Dead and check the jam out below. Happy birthday, Bob!