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Searching for the Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead Paperback – April 25, 2006

4.6 out of 5 stars 126 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Right in time for the Grateful Dead's 40th anniversary, eccentric bass player extraordinaire Phil Lesh has delivered fans a most welcome gift: his autobiography. There are many books out there about the Dead told from the perspective of roadies, journalists, third party observers, and fans. However, with the exceptions of Jerry Garcia's ramblings in Garcia: A Signpost to New Space and Conversations With the Dead, Lesh's Searching for the Sound is the first time a founding member of America's favorite band tells their own story of what it was like inside the Grateful Dead. And what a wonderful, strange tale it is.

Phil Lesh, considered the most academic of the group due to his avant-garde classical composition training, literate mind, and passion for the arts, decided to write his story himself. Written without the crutch of a ghostwriter, Searching for the Sound might be considered disjointed in places, but overall it comes across as conversational, intimate, informative, and candid (particularly regarding topics of drug use and death). If you are familiar with the band and their extended family, their history, the sixties' musical milestones and influences and all the band's famous tales (the Garcia/ Lesh "silent" confrontation, being busted on Bourbon Street, the Wall of Sound), you may be a little disgruntled there is not much new here in the way of content. However, what is "new" and totally satisfying is Phil's warm, optimistic perspective on the many events that helped shape his life. As described by Lesh, his life's journey, much like the Dead's music, is "a [series] of recurring themes, transpositions, repetitions, unexpected developments, all converging to define form that is not necessarily apparent until it's ending has come and gone." For the many fans who enjoyed the fruits of his life pursuit of sonic explorations, Searching for the Sound is a welcome addition to their Dead library. --Rob Bracco --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh has written the memoir one might have expected: energetic and flawed, but sure to be loved by fans. Lesh joined the band's original members—Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzman and "Pigpen" Ron McKernan—in 1965 and helped morph the legendary outfit from its beginnings as a jug band to the unique, psychedelic improvisational jam band that spawned arguably the most loyal, iconic audience in popular music history: the Deadheads. What a long, strange trip it was. For 30-plus years, from being the house band for Ken Kesey's acid tests to stadium tours in the 1980s and '90s, the band pioneered a new paradigm for musicians, operating as an extended, albeit dysfunctional, family. Along the way, three keyboardists died, two managers robbed the band, bad deals were signed, massive debt was accrued and drug and alcohol problems flared. In 1995, the trip finally ended (or did it?), when Garcia died. Lesh infuses his prose with his wacky personality, which is endearing, but also maddening, especially when he's rendering acid trips or discussing music. Indeed, many fans who twirled ecstatically at Dead shows will struggle to follow Lesh's extended explanations of the band's compositions. Also, the second half of the band's life gets short shrift. Nevertheless, Deadheads will surely celebrate Lesh's honest, intimate remembrances. (Apr.) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (April 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316154490
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316154499
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #218,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bruce Crocker on April 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
No one book can ever tell the entire tale of the Grateful Dead. Searching For The Sound by bassist and founding member Phil Lesh is the first book by a member of the band to focus on the band itself and Phil has a tale to tell and tells it well. The book starts with Lesh's birth and quickly moves on to his discovery of music. Then Lesh takes us through the embryonic San Francisco scene and on into the evolution of the Grateful Dead. The rest of the book focuses on Phil's intertwined life with the band, the band's extended family, and, ultimately, Phil's own family. It takes only the last dozen or so pages to cover the years since Jerry Garcia's death, but the subtitle of the book is My Life With The Grateful Dead and that name passed into history at the end of 1995. The drugs are there, but rather than glorifying them, a full reading of the book shows that, in the long run, the drugs took a heavy toll. Lesh's writing style is conversational and stream of consciousness and fits perfectly with the story he's narrating. Ultimately, it's a book about MUSIC, its creation, and its powers. In the spirit of the age of disclosure, I must admit to attending 27 Grateful Dead shows between Penn State '79 and Las Vegas '95 and have followed the band members in whatever incarnation since the death of Garcia. I don't think this makes me biased, but I thought you should know. I found the book to be an eye opener and it added context to a major part of my life during the last quarter of the 20th Century. A non-Deadhead should enjoy the book, especially anyone with a taste for biography and the history of rock. If you're looking for the description of one endless drug trip, stay away [or better yet, read the book with an open mind]. I enjoyed Searching For The Sound and would love to see Lesh give us another book sometime in the future.
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Format: Hardcover
It is so refreshing to read a book by a musician who is in it for the MUSIC. I knew some background on Mr. Lesh. I'm not a rabid Deadhead...never quit my job and followed them on tour or anything, but I have seen them at least six times. I've read the books by Hank Harrison, Blair Jackson and Rock Scully and enjoyed them all, and have many of their CDs. But Lesh's book is a well-written memoir of what it was like being on that wonderous ride through that unique time in history. If you want to hear stories about shagging endless lines of groupies, or snorting endless lines of cocaine, go elsewhere. Lesh touches on the drug element in the band, but doesn't dwell on it....except for maybe the LSD experimentation which was so crucial the the development of the band. And I've honestly never read such a "dead-on" (sorry) description of the effects of mind-altering drugs. Lesh is obviously an intelligent man, and to be honest, he loses me occasionally when talking about electronics/sound/acoustics, but I knew enough about him to expect that.

It's rare you get to read a book by a dedicated musician, and not a *ROCKSTAR*. Listening to the Grateful Dead taught me a lot about listening to music in general. After appreciating the dynamic between Garcia, Lesh and Weir, I was able to move on to Coltrane, Garrison, Jones and Tyner and many more great combinations after that. I've always admired Lesh as a musician, but now I also admire him as a writer, a husband and a father. Go in peace, Mr. Lesh! Thanks for the great read!
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Format: Hardcover
I'm so full of music and nostalgia, having just finished this book. I didn't want it to end. I'm exhausted--feeling like I just danced my way through a weekend of shows--and yet, so high on the memories, I'm thrilled and honored to write this review. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Phil, for writing "Searching For The Sound." It's a wonderful book. The best I've read about the Dead. Thank you for sharing everything behind that omnipresent smile you always seemed to have on stage.

Our intimate circle of Deadhead cohorts--best friends, pals, passing and long-term acquaintances that began in Southern Illinois (particularly along with the fabulous and memorable cover group, "Uncle Jon's Band,") through our crew called "East Bay Deadheads For Peace" formed during one of many Berkeley Greek Theater shows, always called Phil "The Professor." I confess I never knew why until I read this book. Wow. Phil brings an intellectual integrity to the story of his own musical education and, of course, to the band--to the history of the music driving The Grateful Dead, and to all of us who continually flocked to see them play for us and for each other. Phil lets us in. Tells us what it was REALLY like. Even when I knew what was coming, I experienced the pains (and the joys) through a different and certainly wiser set of eyes. This book is written with true love and deep respect for all members of the band and above all, for THE MUSIC.

What amazes me most about his book is the clarity of Phil's memory. He recounts (particularly the early days) with such detail that I can't help but believe this is transcribed from personal journals.
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