There are already quite a few books about the Grateful Dead—in fact, coauthor Jackson has written two of them, including a bio of Jerry Garcia—but this one’s a bit different. It’s an oral history featuring author interviews with band members Garcia, Bob Weir, and Phil Lesh; filmmaker Allan Arkush (who worked with the band back in the day); comedian Tom Davis (he was the band’s LSD connection); tour manager Sam Cutler; David Nelson (who founded, along with Garcia, the band New Riders of the Purple Sage); promoter Bill Graham; and many more. The book also incorporates previously published interviews that appeared in newspapers and magazines. Like Live from New York (2002), Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller’s classic oral history of Saturday Night Live, the book shows us history as it was seen by its key players. Events reported on in other books are recounted here by their participants, providing differing perspectives on the same moments in time, and we get a feel for the relationships between the band’s members, as suggested by their own words. The book is clearly designed for Deadheads, who, following the band’s final concerts in July, will definitely need something to help relive the glory days.
This review originally appeared in Booklist, August 2015.