When I started this endeavor, I planned on only writing a chapter or two to set the stage for Dylan and the Dead in the ‘80s. Between the Dead’s soaring popularity, Garcia’s comeback from a life-threatening coma, and Dylan’s rebirth as a live performer, there was more than enough material for a book. As I tried to summarize the back story, I found that the musical journeys of Dylan and Garcia side by side, fused into a fascinating tale. These kindred spirits came out of the same time and place, and were influenced by the same writers and musicians, but their paths to fame couldn’t have been more different. Out of nowhere, during, the first five years of his career, Dylan changed popular music with epic anthems and iconic albums. Garcia obsessively played banjo and guitar during these years, put few people outside of the Bay Area had ever heard of Jerry Garcia by 1966.
After his motorcycle accident, Dylan took a seven-year break from touring. During these years (1967-1973), the Grateful Dead played 792 concerts, and Garcia, with different configurations, played an additional 241 shows. It was an innovative body of music that was largely unheralded at the time, but it would continue to grow in stature decades down the line.
With the release of Desire, Dylan completed his third trilogy of genius: ’63 – ’64 The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin’, Another Side of Bob Dylan; ’65 – ’66 Brining It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde; ’74 –’75 Planet Waves, Blood on the Tracks, Desire. Thanks in large part to the lyrics of Robert Hunter, the Dead had two stunning runs of album brilliance: Workingman’s Dead, American Beauty, Europe ’72, and Wake of the Flood, Mars Hotel Blues for Allah, and Terrapin Station. The originals from these albums defined the band’s sound and were the foundation of every Dead show for their last twenty years. In addition to their prodigious musical output, Dylan and Garcia were involved in epic movie projects, Renaldo and Clara and The Grateful Dead movie. They were undoubtedly the most bootlegged performers of their time, and both men were suffocated by overwhelming fame. Dylan turned to Jesus, Jerry became hooked on Persian.
In a 1991 interview with Robert Hilburn, Dylan said, “You’re either a player, or you’re not a player. It didn’t occur to me until we did those shows with the Grateful Dead. If you just go out every three years or so, like I was doing for a while, that’s when you lose touch. If you’re going to be a performer, you—you’ve gotta give it your all.” Bob learned his listen well. According to Deadbase, the statistical bible of Deadheads, the Grateful Dead played 2,318 shows during their thirty years of existence. Dylan’s April 26, 2011, performance on the MoJo Stage at Byron Bay Bluesfest in Australia was concert number 2,319 of his Never Ending Tour. How crazy is that? In the second half of his career he played more gigs than the Grateful Dead and there’s no end in sight.
I’ll be posting more about the book in the coming days. Here’s the chapter listing from the book:
ONE: PARADISE IN MALIBU, HELL IN HARTFORD
TWO: MAKING IT COME ALIVE
THREE: FREEWHEELIN’ AMBITION
FOUR: GENIUS MAKES ITS OWN RUES
FIVE: AMERICAN BEAUTY
SIX: EUROPE ’72 AND THE EPIC TOURS OF ’74
SEVEN: INSPIRATION AND SALVATION
EIGHT: AFTERMATH OF AN UNSPEAKABLE TRAGEDY
NNE: SURVIVING IN A RITHLESS WORLD
TEN: WE ARE THE WORLD
ELEVEN TOO MUCH OF NOTHING
TWELVE: THE RESURRECTION OF JERRY
THIRTEEN: DAYS OF MIRACLE AND WONDER
FOURTEEN: BORN AGAIN IN THE SWAMPS
FIFTEEN: DETERMINED TO STAND
SIXTEEN: HANDLE WITH CARE
SEVENTEEN: STRIKE ANOTHER MATCH GO START ANEW
EIGHTEEN: FORGET THE DEAD YOU LEFT
NINETEEN: OH MERCY
TWENTY: DEATH DON’T HAVE NO MERCY
TWENTY-ONE: IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE
TWENTY-TWO: INEVITABLE FAREWLL
TWENTY-THREE: TWISTED FATE WITH DYLAN AND THE DEAD
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