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The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics: The Collected Lyrics of Robert Hunter and John Barlow Hardcover – October 11, 2005

4.8 out of 5 stars 159 customer reviews

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Hardcover, October 11, 2005
$58.10 $1.77

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1st edition (October 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743277473
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743277471
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 1.6 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (159 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #828,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. A. Filippelli on November 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
What an amazing compilation of Lyrics, anecdotes, art and commentary

This book has every Grateful dead song lyric and splits them up in order of the year that they where recorded or played live from 1966 to 1994. There are several hundred songs in all. Everything you can think of from Can't come down 1965 to 1994's Childhood's end and in between Candyman, Truckin, Casey Jones, Alabama getaway, China cat garden, Down the road and a few hundred more songs. Some of the cover songs are also in the book.

There is a lengthy forward in the book by Robert Hunter that goes into song writing and the spirit that goes into it that is very nicely written and gave me some insight to Mr. Hunter that I had not seen before.

The book is thoughtfully and beautifully laid out. Almost every page has artwork that is outstanding in its own right and very appropriate for a book involving the Dead. Most of the art work is black and white but there is some color artwork as well. There are also some well placed Biblical quotes. On most songs there are notes that give you the recording date and the first date of performance. The notes, artwork commentary and Biblical passages all provide a nice insight to the songs and how they took shape.

Dead head or passive follower, even if you know all the lyrics and are familiar with the Grateful Dead story this is a great book to look at and read.

Taken from the back cover "This book is great I will never have to explain myself -Bob Weir"

I feel like I'm Truckin got my chips cashed in, truckin like the Doodah man when I pick up this book.

10 stars in a 5 star limitation.
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Format: Hardcover
The Grateful Dead were always known for their eclectic influences, from Phil Lesh's unperformable classical compositions to Pigpen's deep understanding of the blues to Jerry's formidable old-time country and bluegrass credentials. The music they made together was a unique blend of the many threads that run through American music. This book offers a new perspective on those threads by examining the lyrics of Dead songs. Many of their songs were filled with references and allusions to American history, pop culture from many different eras, literature, other music genres, other songs, world religions, current events, and so on. This book identifies those references and creates a clear and rich picture of the context of the Dead's unique contributions to American music. It is well-researched, well-written, and a fascinating read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
THIS IS A REVIEW OF THE 2015 EDITION OF THE COMPLETE ANNOTATED GRATEFUL DEAD LYRICS.

BEWARE! THIS IS NOTHING BUT A REPRINT OF THE 2005 EDITION WITH A NEW DUST JACKET.

There's absolutely nothing new in this latest edition of this book. So if you already own the 2005 edition there's no need to purchase this unless you want the new dust jacket with the cool graphic, or you're a collector. The five "stars" is for the content--NOT because there's anything new or different in the contents. If you check the Amazon page for this book the publishing info says "Reissue Edition".

But if you don't own this book and are thinking of buying it--it's a very good book with informative annotations which add insight into many of the tunes. The illustrations add to the overall "coolness" of the book. And Amazon's price is very good. But everything--from Hunter's long Foreward to Alan Trist's Preface, to David Dodd's Introduction, to Barlow's Afterword is exactly the same.
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This beautifully and logically presented compendium of all the Grateful Dead's own songs, and many of the tunes they covered regularly, already sits at the very top ranks of the vast and growing Grateful Dead literature.

The illustrations, especially those drawn from the original Grateful Dead Songbook (which documents tunes from the Workingman's Dead and Amercian Beauty albums) are fantastic and often thought provoking illustrations of aspects of the band's huge repertoire.

The Grateful Dead was all about the music. This book will enrich anyone's understanding of American music. It is an absolute must for Deadheads.

And it provides tantalising insights into the creative processes of the Grateful Deads great lyricists, Robert Hunter and John Perry Barlow.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics book for my husband for Christmas and I was more pleased than I thought I would be! The cover is bright and vivid. The book is heavy. It is the perfect size and weight for a coffee table book. The interior of the book is full of anazing information! This is definitely a great purchase, and one I would make again.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was expecting more insight into the inspiration for the songs as they were written. Still a good item to have for the discerning dead head as there are some cool facts (who was Joe Brown anyway?) and listing of first/last played dates. See you on tour!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Beautifully and lovingly done book, with complete lyrics of all the songs they performed regularly (including recent post-Garcia songs) along with helpful annotation (some terse, some in depth - 6 pages for Ramble on Rose!), covering possible, hypothetical and actual references, it is scholarly and thorough but not too ponderous or silly.

The Dead's main lyricists frame the body of the book with essays about their craft, their role and creative process. Hunter's forward is inspiring - playful, serious, insightful and educational all in one. Barlow's afterward is grounding and tender making a fitting tribute to the band and an era and a fine gift to us all.
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