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Why the Grateful Dead Matter

In Why the Grateful Dead Matter, veteran writer and lifelong Deadhead Michael Benson argues that the Grateful Dead are not simply a successful rock-and-roll band but a phenomenon central to American culture. He defends the proposition that the Grateful Dead are, in fact, a musical movement as transformative as any -ism in the artistic history of this century and the last. And a lot more fun than most. From the street festivals of Haight-Ashbury to the cross-country acid tests with the Merry Pranksters, and from the sound-and-light show at the Great Pyramid at Giza to the ecstatic outpouring of joy at Soldier Field in the summer of ’15, the Grateful Dead have been at the center of American life, music, and karmic flow for fifty years. In Why the Grateful Dead Matter, Michael Benson brings it all back to life and makes a compelling case for the band’s lasting cultural importance.

192 pages | 5 1/2 x 8

Music: General Music

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Light the Song • They’re an American Band • Of Jerry Garcia, Savior • Dead Shows Are Like Snowflakes • The Dead Are Epicurean • “Ripple” Is So Zen • They Invented a New Form of Music • Concert Sound at a Whole New Level • They Played the Pyramids • Their Instruments Were Custom-Made • Pigpen Sang the Blues • Bobby Brought the Muscle and the Sunshine • Rock Scully Was Their Manager • They Didn’t Buy into the Jinx • The Birth of the Dead Was a Familial Process • Of the Acid Tests • The Lyrics of Robert Hunter Are Great Poetry • The Band Has a Philosophy • Of Academics and Business • Of Mountain Girl • Deadheads Roam the Earth • Crickets Played on Blues for Allah • Dead World Is a Kinder, Gentler Place • Their Most Spontaneous Moment Became Their Finest Hour • They Overcame So Much and Forged On • There Is Sugaree • The Commitment to a Concise Aesthetic and Traditional Song Structures • When Youth Was God, Jerry Played Old • Of the Art • The Concert Films • Their Music Is So Flexible • Of the Forty-Five-Minute “Sugaree” • Of Englishtown, and the Myriad Glories of ’77 • When Jerry Died the Vibe Lived On • The Music Never Stops • Acknowledgments • Further Reading • Index

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