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
From Publishers Weekly
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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