Shine On, Dream On, Play On Bill Walton

I write about strategies to turn fans into customers and customers into fans. I also share ways to use real-time strategies to spread ideas, influence minds, and build business.

Public Speaking  |  Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead  |  Music  |  Books

Bill Walton MLGDBill Walton, noted Deadhead and NBA basketball Hall-of-Famer, was the happiest and most upbeat person I’ve ever met. He had a kind word for everybody and absolutely loved his life and everybody who was a part of it.

You never knew what would come out of Bill’s mouth, be it one-on-one with him at the set break of a Grateful Dead show, over dinner with a handful of people, or on a national television broadcast. However, whatever Bill said was worth listening to carefully, because he told truth.

Bill dug deep into his passions, especially for the Grateful Dead, which is how we first met. He wrote the brilliant foreword to my book Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead.

My MLGD co-author Brian Halligan and I happened to be together when the sad news of Bill’s death broke yesterday. Brian and I shed a tear, told Bill stories, and laughed like crazy with the memories of his good-natured antics.

Bill the poet

w Brian and BIll WWhen the manuscript for Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead was complete in early 2010, Brian cold emailed Bill about the book, asking if he would write a one sentence endorsement quote.

As the most famous Deadhead, Bill’s thoughts were important to us.

Bill was intrigued but didn’t commit until he learned more. Lots more! He and Brian ended up talking about the book for several hours on the phone. Bill wanted to know all about us, our history with the Grateful Dead, how many shows we’ve seen, our favorite songs, and why we wrote the book.

With the publication deadline nearing, and without a quote from Bill, we started to get worried.  Did he hate the book? Did he forget about us?

Finally, with moments to spare, we didn’t just get an endorsement quote. We got much more - a three-page essay. A brilliant, poetic, cosmically fabulous essay which we used as the foreword to the book. 

Brian and I agree that it is by far the best part of our book.

Here is just one paragraph from Bill’s foreword: “In the band’s never-ending battle against the dire wolves of deceit and false prophets (and profits), the Grateful Dead—a shining star, a beacon of hope on a bleak landscape—have been able to rise above the blinding madness with innovative promotional techniques, viral marketing, a commitment to customer service, personalized ticket and merchandising plans, and a sense of community and team that was unheard of years ago, but is clearly now the standard new path to the promised land. It all seems so simple—yet so frustratingly elusive. We all have two eyes, but still some of us can’t see.”

Bill was so happy with Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead and his work on the book that he frequently gave copies out to friends. Every year or so he’d order another case of books. 

Bill’s passion

Bill was super passionate about everything he loved.

When the Grateful Dead inevitably ended up as a topic in his basketball commentary, some people loved it, some thought it was funny, and some didn’t know what the hell was going on. But nobody ever mistook Bill’s passion as anything but genuine. 

Bill was also passionate about his public speaking career. He loved telling stories on stage, making people laugh, making them think. Bill and I both worked with the brilliant Tony D’Amelio, our speaker manager and friend. Tony guided both of our speaking careers and Bill always sang Tony’s praises to me (and vice versa).

Bill lived life to the fullest. He is an inspiration to me and to countless others. When I’m feeling down for any reason, thinking about Bill makes me happy again.

I’ve read and reread the last text I received from Bill a few weeks ago. There was much more in the text, but I suspect Bill would be cool if I share this part of what he texted to me.

"Shine on, 
Heal on, 
Dream on, 
Play on,"

Bill Walton will be deeply missed. My heart goes out to his wonderful wife Lori and to all who loved him.

Photo of Bill Walton from Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead by Jay Blakesberg.