Sweet Chaos: The Grateful Dead's American Adventure from Gallery Books

Sweet Chaos: The Grateful Dead's American Adventure from Gallery Books
Sweet Chaos: The Grateful Dead's American Adventure from Gallery Books (click images to enlarge)

Sweet Chaos: The Grateful Dead's American Adventure from Gallery Books

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San Francisco's Grateful Dead brought its psychedelic blend of folk, bluegrass, and blues to the 1960s counterculture, along with a romance for the Beats and a love of anarchy that made it something more than a bond. Without radio play and virtually unnoticed by the press, the Dead forged a vast underground following whose loyalty survives to the present day.
National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author Carol Brightman returns to the bond's roots -- to Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, the acid tests and the heady days of Haight-Ashhury, the free concerts in Golden Gate Park and the formative shows of New York's Fillmore East -- to uncover the secrets of the band's longevity. Drawing on exclusive interviews With band members, staff and crew, Deadheads, other musicians, journalists -- and her own experience as a '60s activist -- Brightman shows us how, amid the turbulent Free Speech Movement and antiwar rallies, the Grateful Dead's abandonment to music, drugs, and dance offered the faithful a shelter in the storm. Her riveting, in-depth portrait of Jerry Garcia, the "nonleader leader" who held to a vision of the Grateful Dead's destiny even as he recoiled from the juggernaut it became, shows us how it was that a Dead concert become something halfway between a revival meeting and a family reunion.
An absorbing and exhilarating exploration, Sweet Chaos offers, at last, a complete understanding of the Dead phenomenon and its place in American culture.

What a long, strange trip it's been, indeed. Carol Brightman's examination of the Grateful Dead's history supports the widely held belief that it was more than just a psychedelic band. The Grateful Dead was a cultural phenomenon from its beginnings in the late 1960's up until its untimely demise following the death of Jerry Garcia in 1995.

Brightman does more than just present a chronology of the band's history. She explains how the Grateful Dead both influenced and was influenced by the turbulence of the events unfolding around them in the 1960's. Rather than just telling the same old story of how the band evolved from a house band for Ken Kesey's infamous Acid Tests to the top-grossing act of the early 1990's, she presents detailed histories of the band members, their families, their friends, and everyone else they came into contact with. It is also a fascinating look at the emergence of the 1960's drug culture and the involvement of everybody from Timothy Leary to the CIA.

Whether you're a baby boomer Deadhead who has followed the band since its beginnings or a Generation X Deadhead who jumped on the bandwagon when the band hit the Top 40 in the late 1980's, this book is a must-read. Sweet Chaos is a compelling report of a period in United States history and of a band that is truly beyond description. --Michael Mariani