The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics

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9780743277495: The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics

When the Grateful Dead's in-house publishing company, Ice Nine, decided that the band's fortieth anniversary was a good time to publish their entire lyric catalog, a wave of excitement swept across the world of Deadheads, or would have had they known. What was that unclear word in “Uncle John's Band”? Would “Revolutionary Hamstrung Blues” be included? Which Cassidy is John Barlow writing about? Would Robert Hunter reveal the meaning of anything at all? These questions are finally answered with the publication of this book, but in true Grateful Dead fashion you'll have to dig around to find the answers and have fun doing it.

The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics is an authoritative text, providing standard versions of all the original songs so that you can win an occasional bar bet. Or not. There are songs you've never heard and others you've never heard right and still others you didn't know existed, and some, indeed, that may not exist at all. To provide a context for this formidable body of work, of which his part is primary, Robert Hunter has written a foreword that goes to the heart of the matter.

These are some of the best-loved songs in the modern American songbook. You will hear them hummed and spoken among tens of thousands as counterculture code and recorded by musicians of all stripes for their inimitable singability, mysterious presence, and obscure accessibility. How do they do all this? The annotations on sources provide a gloss on the lyrics, which goes to the roots of Western culture as they are incorporated into them. Be it fairy tale or folksong that the lyricists have drawn on, ancient verse, biblical narrative, or T. S. Eliot, the references are here. This has never been done before. There are things here that would not have otherwise been known or imagined, which also goes for what was in the minds of the lyricists themselves. They would be the first to admit that the incursion of imagery into their creative memory banks was a chancy business.

Annotation is a venerable literary tradition. It's been done for the works of Dante and Shakespeare, and for Finnegans Wake annotations may be essential. Mother Goose and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland have been annotated. All genres of writing can be illuminated by it, and that fundamental revelation that comes from reading books—“Oh, I always wondered about that”—becomes especially meaningful. David Dodd is well suited to the task of annotation. An avid Grateful Dead concertgoer for two decades, he is a librarian who brings to the work a detective's love of following a clue as far as it will take him. He first began the annotation as a research project in 1995, in the early days of the Web, through the medium of a website. As in all things virtual, it grew, and with input from interested correspondents from around the world, the website evolved continually. With their publication in book form, the Grateful Dead's lyrics can be newly savored, couched in the cultural traditions that spawned them.

With the addition of artist Jim Carpenter's illustrations, whimsical elements in the lyrics, aspects cognitively unreferenceable, and imagery often repeated are brought to light. What he has seen to illustrate itself illustrates the American legend that is present in The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics. You won't think of the cultural icon that is the Grateful Dead the same way again.

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Review:

Do you know the way to Fennario? Or wonder where the Nuthatch winters? What is the "Buck Dancer's Choice?" And where do the four winds dwell? If these are questions that leave you wondering then David Dodd's The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics may just be the skeleton key you've been looking for. Every Deadhead knows there is something profound hidden within their lyrics, even if most of the nuances go by unnoticed. Why are the obscure tales of their characters' (Jack Straw, Black Peter, August West, et al) trials and tribulations on the psychedelic Americana landscape so intriguing? What is the deal with the reoccurring imagery that popped in and out of their songs for decades (the crows, light and darkness, rolling rivers, gambling, playing cards, space, and, of course, roses)? It is clear the Grateful Dead's lyricists Robert Hunter and John Barlow tapped into the well of the collective subconscious for material, but rarely were any explanations provided. Fans were basically on their own to put the pieces together themselves, until now.

The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics began as a research project for David Dodd while he was working at the University of Colorado. Like many fans before him, Dodd spent hours passionately trying to find the deeper meanings in the Dead's songs. In 1994 the Internet may have been in its infancy, but Dodd knew the Web was the perfect to tool to help him annotate the entire Dead catalog. So began the building of his incredibly popular Web site. The fruits of his labors lie within the pages of this encyclopedic book. Where Robert Hunter's A Box of Rain only includes his lyrical contributions to the Dead's catalog, Dodd's book is expanded to include John Barlow's songs, as well as tunes the Dead covered so many times they became their own. It is worth mentioning, this book should not be viewed as a cheat sheet, but a tool giving lots of background and cross-references. The interpretations are still up to you. Be forewarned, this book can be extremely habit forming. --Rob Bracco

About the Author:

David Dodd is the author of The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics. The founder of The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics website and coeditor of The Grateful Dead Reader and The Grateful Dead and the Deadheads: An Annotated Bibliography, he is the city librarian of San Rafael, California.

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