Monday, December 21, 2015

Rolling Stone on Fare Thee Well

Will Hermes of Rolling Stone just gave it up for Fare Thee Well--and the 2015 books that chronicled the Long, Strange Trip. Was delighted to see No Simple Highway in such good company. In the course of writing it, I came to know David Gans, Blair Jackson, David Browne, Benjy Eisen, David Dodd, and Jesse Jarnow--all of whom appear in this piece. Fanatical readers of this blog won't be surprised to learn that we've all supported each other, in one way or another, all along the way. That includes Dennis McNally, who was a big help to me when On Highway 61 was still a gleam in his eye.

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Friday, December 11, 2015

Fare Thee Well, 2015

Eleven months ago, the "core four" members of the Grateful Dead announced their final concerts in Chicago. Four days later, No Simple Highway appeared. The timing was coincidental; we always wanted a 2015 publication date to tap interest in the Dead's 50th anniversary, but the publisher also wanted more space between my book and Bill Kreutzmann's. (We shared the same editor and publicity team.) So mine was moved up to January, and Bill & Benjy Eisen's came out in the spring. David Browne's So Many Roads also dropped in spring, and now we have strong additions by Dennis McNally (Jerry on Jerry) and Blair Jackson & David Gans (This Is All a Dream We Dreamed).

We're finishing the year with the paperback version of No Simple Highway, and I'm especially gratified that Jeremy Varon, New School history professor and editor of The Sixties, has published a brand new and very positive review of the book. Man, it feels good when someone reads carefully, not to mention approvingly.

If this was a good year for the growing Grateful Dead bookshelf, the national response to Fare Thee Well was the strongest indication yet that the Dead's project was uniquely successful. According to Billboard, the Chicago shows ranked first among the music industry's highest-grossing concerts, and the Santa Clara shows ranked third. No one familiar with the Dead's project was surprised by the fact that their community is still large, engaged, and incredibly supportive. But I'm glad the rest of the country (and the media) also witnessed that energy and support.

No Simple Highway argues that the Dead's project has to be evaluated on its own terms. That's standard practice for all thoughtful criticism; you judge artists by how well they achieve what they set out to do. From the beginning, the Dead sought to get people high through music and to build community. By that measure, their achievement can't be denied.

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