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Dark Star: An Oral Biography of Jerry Garcia Paperback – February 10, 2009


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Dark Star: An Oral Biography of Jerry Garcia + Garcia : An American Life + Living with the Dead: Twenty Years on the Bus with Garcia and the Grateful Dead
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: It Books; Original edition (February 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061715727
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061715723
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #117,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Published to coincide with the first anniversary of Jerry Garcia's death, this insightful life of the Grateful Dead guitarist and cultural icon features reminiscences from over 60 people who knew him, from his boyhood in Menlo Park, Calif., to his death. There are family stories from his brother Tiff, Acid Test memories from Ken Kesey, rueful war stories of married life from ex-wife Mountain Girl and harrowing medical reports from his last doctor. As an oral biography, the book necessarily lacks a fixed point of view. Indeed, there are many Jerry Garcias on display here, and they often contradict one another: gifted improvisational performer yet tyrannical perfectionist; loving father yet shameless philanderer; hero to millions yet self-pitying addict. As the years march on, Garcia's early passion for music and youthful joy in performance come through less clearly, overwhelmed by business squabbles and rampant substance abuse. Likely a must-buy for mourning Deadheads, the book should also interest casual fans (if there are any), as well as those curious about the San Francisco 1960s scene or about the punishing coincidence of a brilliant but vulnerable artist and an extraordinary time.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Greenfield nicely complements the traditional journalistic approach of Sandy Troy's Garcia bio, Captain Trips (Thunder's Mountain, 1994), by piecing together recent interviews with nearly 70 Grateful Dead friends and associates to tell a surprisingly cohesive story of the guitarist's life. Save for other Dead members, Greenfield, who co-wrote rock impresario Bill Graham's autobiography, My Life Inside Rock and Out (LJ 9/1/92), gained access to virtually all of the people who knew Garcia intimately. The last half dwells painfully on Garcia's heroin addiction, his 1986 lapse into a diabetic coma, and his fatal 1995 heart attack, but readers will finish with a better understanding of this charismatic musician. Recommended for larger popular music collections.?Lloyd Jansen, Stockton-San Joaquin Cty. P.L., Cal.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 32 customer reviews
This book focuses more on Jerry's life and relationships while imparting his skill as a musician.
Paul Beauparlant
It leaves a lot of frustrating gaps, and includes a number of errors in chronology (if not in fact) - but chalk me up as another picky deadhead.
Ben Hollin
The first third of the book - up to the Dead's first real success as a band - is probably the most interesting.
Caleb Hellerman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 27, 1999
Format: Paperback
I was unable to put this painful, marvelous book down until I had finished it. Starry-eyed twirlers should beware their illusions: Jerry Garcia was a powerful, wealthy (in the end), troubled genius who broke a lot of hearts. But his contribution to his friends and the millions who adored his art stands as one of the most enduring of the last half of this century. He once said, "Anybody who thinks I'm God ought to talk to my kids." Truer words were never spoken, and this book illustrates the folly in putting people on pedestals. Garcia is still my favorite artist, bar none, and this book is priceless for it's clear view into his life and work. It also provides a lot of depth and counterpoint to Rock Scully's "Living With the Dead", correcting some of the wilder tales with conflicting eye-witness accounts. The only negative comment is that the interviews are printed verbatim, and the often broken and incorrect English makes the statements unintelligible. I remember reading several of them 4 or 5 times and still being unable to decifer the intent. But they are the minority. Buy it, read it.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 25, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is really a good book, though it left me a little depressed after I finished it. The book begins with a haunting, faded picture of a young Jerry Garcia concentrating intently on his banjo and then proceeds to words by Garcia's brother, Tiff, on how Jerry lost part of one of his fingers and the death of their father. Greenfield lets the people who lived around or with Garcia tell the tale...and what a powerful story it is. The sorry part of it is that it seems like the last 10 years of Garcia's life was like a slow suicide. The center of Garcia's life was music and people who adored him, though it seems he had a great deal of trouble making lasting, emotional bonds to those who loved him. The ones he did make are just sweet. The highlight of the book, for me, is the tale of Garcia's recovery from his mid-80s coma and how instrumental Merl Saunders was in helping Jerry back to life and back to music.
Garcia was a human singularity and this is an interesting portrait of this interesting, adored, and creative person.
Of all the books about Garcia that you want, this is the one you want the most.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
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.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
...and anyone who wants to know about Jerry Garcia, actually. Like the title says, it's an oral biography: Jerry's friends, bandmates, ex-lovers, and siblings talking about their memories of him. Their words portray Jerry as half musical genius demigod, half womanizing drug addict. It's one of the most interesting biographies I've ever read, and I go through a lot of rock bios so that is saying something. It isn't exactly intellectual reading, since lots of the talk is mainly dishing dirt and gossiping, but it's straightforward. If you're interested in Jerry's life and want to find out both facts and opinions from the people he associated with, this is the perfect book for it.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
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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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 15, 1998
Format: Paperback
Even though I knew about Garcia's drug and alcohol problems, I still thought he was one of the most wonderful people on the planet. Until I read this book. His treatment of the women in his life - including his neglect of his daughters - made me realize that he was just another human being, and possibly someone I might not even have wanted to meet. I still think that he really did want and try to be a good person at times, and and I still love his music, but reading this book was quite a shock for me. It was hard to deal with my feelings of disillusionment afterwards.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ben Hollin on November 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is told as a collection of anecdotes and quotes from a variety of people who shared Jerry's personal and business life. It leaves a lot of frustrating gaps, and includes a number of errors in chronology (if not in fact) - but chalk me up as another picky deadhead.
While worth reading, the focus is on Jerry's interpersonal relationships with his women and drugs. Too little is devoted to his relationship with the band members and his most important collaborist, Robert Hunter. And there is a large emphasis on his later, destructive use of opiates - with little attention paid to the positive influence of psychedelics in his younger years.
What I missed most from this biography is any significant content about Jerry's music - how he approached the creative process of composing and performing spontaneous improvisation. There's quite a bit of detail about the music that influenced him - particularly jug band music and bluegrass. But these details are all anecodotal and incomplete, with inadequate description or analysis of his own music.
I did learn a lot about his love life and drug-induced health problems that were kept relatively private while he was alive. Though legitimate sujects for a biography, the emphasis on the lurid elements of his life gives the book an aura of tabloid journalism. There are so many more facets of Garcia that made him a compelling giant of a musician and philosopher-by-example that I will need to wait until the complete story is told. I haven't had a chance to read Blair Jackson's book yet, though based on his past writings I have high expectations that his will get more inside Jerry's head - and deliver a more satisfyingly balanced and enlightening read.
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