Dark Star: An Oral Biography of Jerry Garcia
Prices for book: Dark Star: An Oral Biography of Jerry Garcia
Book ISBN: 9780061715723
Author(s): Robert Greenfield
Document type: Trade Paper
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blues for Jerry Garcia
This book travels the entire lifespan of the big brother in The Grateful Dead. There is very little discussion of individual G.D. albums so for that I would steer you to other books. This book focuses more on Jerry's life and relationships while imparting his skill as a musician.
The revelation concluded as the pages turn is how such a free-loving, fun-loving, good natured, ambitious, talented, sweet guy would turn around to walk down a lonely, isolated path where no living, breathing thing should go. This paradox is explained a number of times and by books end, we are very familiar with how a divine talent would be unable to stop his own dissolve.
One quote I want to include:
"I introduced myself to Deborah(Jerry's widow)at the funeral but she was pretty dismissive because behind me at that particular moment, Dylan was paying his respects to Jerry and she was really fixing on him. He was really trying to get out of there and she stopped him when he walked by. He had his head bent down. His eyes were really red and when she came to a little momentary pause in what she was saying, he looked at her with those incredibly steely ice blue eyes and said, "He was there for me when nobody was." And he walked around her and split out of there as fast as he could." -sandy rothman
The image of how he was found at the time of death is very strong. And beautiful.
After I read this I rented the DVD "The Grateful Dead Movie", a document of the bands shows filmed at the Winterland ballroom in 1974. This is what I would recommend all readers of this book to do upon completion. For this is how to remember Jerry. In his prime. All smiles and relaxed on stage. Leading his brothers, and sister, across, inside-out, and back and all around, the sound......of the Grateful Dead.
Paul Beauparlant (Amazon.com)
Pulls back the curtain
This is a collection of interveiws done soon after Jerry's death. The other GD band members did not participate. It's not about Jerry's music so much as it is about his personality as revealed to those who knew him. Seperate the music from the men. What is revealed is that Jerry Garcia was at his core a kind and peaceul man, but lived most of his life as a cowardly, spoiled, selfish, child. The Grateful Dead organization was a mobocracy largely composed of people in way over their heads, who were mostly concerned with back stabbing others in order to gain a larger slice of the pie. The pie, in effect, was Jerry. The band was really his supporting cast, even though Bobby and others go to some lengths to dispell that reality. I always had it in mind that the members of the band and the organization relfected that which is most ideal and good about the Deadhead experience. This is not so. Many times the exact opposite is the case. Not love, but conninving, petty, jealousy and squables. Not doing it for the music, but doing it for the money. Not doing what's right by Jerry or the fans, but doing what justifies the end...the survival of this twisted monster. I think I can sum up my review in saying that the Grateful Dead are a group of people you wish were a lot cooler than they were and are. I don't know what they could have accomplished if they'd have shed that self imposed dark cloud that seemed to follow them everywhere. Part of me thinks that although they didn't ever want that influence and power, that they were given the stage, given the opportunity, and they blew it.
Frank Rizzo (Amazon.com)
First-person accounts of Jerry Garcia- a must-read indeed
Following the death of Jerry Garcia in August 1995, music journalist Robert Greenfield set out to interview as many people as possible to make this 'oral history' of Jerry Garcia. While it's by no means a perfect book (some years are glided over in a span of 2 pages or less- 1967-1969 (perhaps this is understandable and forgivable...how could we expect people in 1995-1996 to recall those particular years?) and 1988-89), it is a unique book. Many people who were very close to Jerry agreed to be interviewed for this book including his brother, 3 of his 4 wives (who come across as very bright and articulate, though this does get a bit gossipy at times), personal assistants, and producers. However, not one band member agreed to be interviewed, and of course, they sure do know a lot about Jerry (and no band member's reputation is besmirched here- except Jerry's). At times, this is a 'tell-all' sort of book. But much of it is really informative, detailed information. For example, his brother, Tiff, says that Jerry did *not* witness his father's death (by drowning) when Jerry was 8 years old. But, apparently, Jerry told many people later in life that he did witness it and that it was the singular event that marked his childhood. The first 75 pages are all about Jerry's youth and the very beginning of the Grateful Dead. This part, running all the way up to say 1966, is very strong and insightful. Yes, there isn't that much about the music per say...the focus is more on the person. That said, the section on how Hunter and Garcia would work together to write songs was well done. Hunter didn't participate in this book but other musicians did such as David Grisman, Jorma, Merl Saunders, and some members of New Riders of the Purple Sage. So, if you want to learn by first-hand accounts about one of the most brilliant musicians of the 20th century (yes), then this is a must-read book. SPOILER: At times, this book is humorous. One of the better anecdotes comes from around 1992. The Jerry Garcia Band was to play a show at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco. At this time, Jerry's health was so bad that traveling on the road for shows was problematic, so this is why there were so many in nearby San Francisco at that time- esp. Jerry Band shows. Anyways, five minutes before showtime, Jerry says, "I don't think I can play tonight. My hand is messed up." Imagine....everyone was there...five minutes before showtime. Jerry explained to his close friends and managers that he'd gone to Hawaii two weeks earlier and had gotten bitten by a jellyfish and that was the reason his hand hurt. But, actually, his managers thought that what had happened was that Jerry fell asleep on his hand just before showtime and that had caused some problem with his hand. So, what did they do? They thought...and said to Jerry, "Hey, we've billed this night as "An evening with the Jerry Garcia Band". So, why don't we put a couple of sofas out on stage and you can have a long chat with your fans?" Jerry thought that that was a great idea. But then one of his friends said, "Wait...maybe it's not such a good idea after all. What if someone asks you a question that you don't want to answer...?" And Jerry said without hesitating, "Yeah, right...yeah, right." So, they ended up postponing the show from Friday night to the following Monday. And apparently Jerry's hand was still a bit messed up on that Monday. This is an example of one of the many anecdotes that you'll find in this book. Enjoy. And a big 'thank you' to all who participated in this book.
Marsen Sedgwick (Amazon.com)
An incredible read....
This book is an absolute must read for any Grateful Dead fan. The beauty of the book is that you have accounts and opinions from (what seems to be) everyone in Jerry's inner circle. Not only does the book allow you to take a deep look inside Jerry's life but it allows you to take deep study of the scene and the characters that were an enormous part of his life.
This book was damn near impossible to put down and will certainly be re-read very soon - just to make sure I did not miss anything the first time around.
Good history of JG
I have just done a Grateful Dead "unit" (read 6 books, listened to all my old tapes and albums, etc) and I found this book be the most balanced; neither semi-sanitized like McNally or possibly exagerated like Scully. No one book will give you the best view, but I thought this the best single book overall, told in the voices, and with the imperfections, of the GD "family".
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