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Through the years on the Dead's long, strange trip

Photo of The Grateful Dead when they started playing as the Warlocks in 1965.

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Dead for 50 years

They started out 50 years ago in California as the Warlocks but by the end of their first year they were known as the Grateful Dead. This July 4 weekend, the legendary band and its fanatical followers will celebrate a golden anniversary with three sold-out shows in Chicago at Soldier Field.

Love them or hate them, this band mattered—matters. Arguably one of the most important bands ever formed in the U.S., it is fitting that their fans—known, of course, as Deadheads—can reunite for for one final run of shows over the Independence Day weekend to wave their flag one last time.

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The band has not performed together as the Grateful Dead since 1995, when they last played live at Soldier Field. It was two months later that co-founder Jerry Garcia died of a heart attack.

At the reunion shows, the Core Fore, as they are known, will be joined by Phish frontman/guitarist Trey Anastasio, keyboardists Bruce Hornsby and Jeff Chimenti.

It promises to be one final chapter in what has most certainly been a "Long, Strange Trip." Check out of some of the highlights of playing together for half a century.

—By Justin Solomon, producer, CNBC
30 June 2015

Paul Ryan | Michael Ochs | Getty Images