Thursday, January 22, 2015

Book Review: The Journey Of The Grateful Dead Was "No Simple Highway" As Told By Peter Richardson

This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most iconic American bands in music history...The Grateful Dead. Their music has mystified audiences all over the world and their allegiance of fans is incomparable to any other band in the history of music. To celebrate this milestone, the original four remaining members of the band, announced last week that the "core four" will perform once last time together in Chicago, IL during this year's 4th of July weekend. They will be performing at the exact location that The Grateful Dead last performed with the late-Jerry Garcia back in 1995 before his untimely death.
Alongside that announcement comes the latest must-have for "dead heads," the recently published hardcover book "No Simple Highway: A Cultural History Of The Grateful Dead." The 375-page book dives into the background of the band's success by addressing three aspects to their music career. Chapter one "Ecstasy" helps explain the origins of the band, beginning with Jerry Garcia's upbringing in Palo Alto, CA. Garcia's obsession with roots music lead to his meeting with jazz trumpeter Phil Lesh and the early formation of Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions with fellow Palo Alto musicians Ron McKernan and Bob Weir. While many fans may know the history of the band, author Peter Richardson gives insight into other happenings that were going on around this time in the music and drug culture. Chapter two "Mobility" talks about their life with being on the road and how it affected their music. The Grateful Dead's 1970 album "Workingman's Dead" was a different direction for the band, but was built to be taken on the road and played to the people, even if many fans did not understand this new direction. The Grateful Dead were all about taking their music in new directions, especially when performing live. As the second chapter deals with the band's touring heights of the 70's decade, chapter three "Community" takes on the business of being one of the top musical franchises in both money and popularity. Their legions of fans were some of the most dedicated as Garcia described their tours as traveling circuses. The band's late-eighties resurgence into the mainstream with the hit singles "Touch Of Grey" and "Hell In A Bucket" opened the floodgates for even more to discover this large fan following. As with the legacy of the Grateful Dead, the book  closes with the August death of Jerry Garcia in 1995. While the history of The Grateful Dead will never stop evolving, this latest book, "No Simple Highway" is one of the most complete as Richardson received access to the Dead's archives in order to try and answer the question, "why?" Why were The Grateful Dead so popular? Why did so many people follow their music? Why after fifty years are The Grateful Dead still one of the most successful bands of all time?
"No Simple Highway: A Cultural History Of The Grateful Dead" was published through St. Martin Press and is a wonderful journey through the band's "long strange trip." To find out more about this wonderful book, please visit

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