Even the most hardcore Deadheads will be impressed by this obsessively complete look at the Grateful Dead's lyrics written by Robert Hunter and John Barlow, as well as selected traditional and cover songs that were basic parts of the Dead's repertoire. In 1994, Dodd (The Grateful Dead Reader) founded the first Web site of annotated Dead lyrics, and this book is the product of that project, which united academics and fans in finding "new references, resonances, and refractions" in favorites like "Dark Star" and "Uncle John's Band." The annotations range from a look at the influence of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," Stephen Foster's "Oh Susanna," and Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde on Hunter's "New Speedway Boogie" to a recipe for cream puffs by Denver Post food critic John Kessler to illustrate "Cream Puff War," an obscure tune by Jerry Garcia. But the heart of the book is Hunter's exquisitely written foreword, which is equal parts love letter to the lyric tradition, impassioned argument on the importance of songwriting and creativity, and reverie for the Grateful Dead themselves and his luck in being their primary lyricist: "I lived lyric year in and year out for decades and never lost my taste for it." Illus., photos. (Oct. 27)
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The Grateful Dead, that legendary band born of the counterculture of the 1960s, possessed such an extensive catalog of original songs that it would take an academic 10 years to annotate them all. Enter David Dodd, Dead fan and cataloger at a major university. In 1994, Dodd needed a research project and hit upon the idea of annotating all the lyrics of his favorite band. He spent untold hours tracing possible allusions in the Dead's songs and posting them on his Web site. The end result is this comprehensive book that presents possible sources for lyrics without ever offering definitive interpretations. The songs are arranged chronologically by date of first performance and span from 1965 to 1995. For Deadheads, the work is mesmerizing, as many of the band's once enigmatic lyrics are now illuminated, if not completely. As one of the band's chief lyricists, John Barlow, says in the afterword, "We always tried . . . to give you plenty of room to flesh your own song around the bones of what we gave you." Jerry Eberle
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.