by Bill Kreutzmann with Benjy Eisen
St. Martins Press
So Many Roads
by David Browne
Da Capo Press
The Grateful Dead has been one, if not the most written about American band. And for good reason. They were innovators, taking blues and jug band music beyond the limits of the form, creating something new, something unique. Their improvisational format assured that every show was something never before seen, and they did it for 30 years until the death of their genius guitarist and leader Jerry Garcia in 1995. Now, 50 years past the start of the band, as The Warlocks in San Francisco, the remaining 4 members- Bob Weir, Bill Kreuztmann, Phil Lesh and Mickey Hart are scheduled to end it with the “Fare Thee Well” series of concerts in July. They will be missed.
But not forgotten, as the plethora of all things Dead shows. New CD releases (including a mammoth 30 count CD set of live shows), new feature films, and books galore are on tap for the finale. First up is drummer and “original Deadhead” Bill Kreutzmann’s memoir Deal-My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams and Drugs with the Grateful Dead. He first saw Garcia playing banjo in a North Beach coffee shop in 1965 and was instantly drawn to Jerry’s creative soul, forming The Warlocks with Garcia, Lesh, Weir and Bob “Pigpen” McKernan, who was the original keyboardist. The Warlocks were a blues band, dosed on LSD and quickly finding the strict blues forms to be limiting, gradually expanding their sound into something more loose, more aware of the times in which they lived. Kreutzmann’s account rings true, honest to a fault, and not without it’s heartbreaking moments, particularly his recalling of the deterioration and death of Garcia due to drugs. He’s blunt, sparing no one from criticism, including himself, but his tales of great Dead adventures, such as the Mission Street free concerts, or their travels to Europe or Egypt give you a rare behind the scenes look. Deal is highly recommended for anyone interested in the greatest of American bands, the Grateful Dead.
Also recommended is So Many Roads: The Life and Times of the Grateful Dead by David Browne. Roughly chronological, Browne takes key events in the Dead timeline- Europe ’72 or the recording of the “Touch of Grey” video and forms a well-written and loving account of the band, and even long time Dead heads will find something new in it’s pages.
The Grateful Dead changed music- and our society- in myriad ways. They helped create the ’60s, made passionate, intricate music, and forever changed the way bands operate. They formed a family between the band and the fans, one that grows a little bit more each year. Wave that freak flag boys, wave it high.