National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author Carol Brightman brings the Grateful Dead and their history to life in this fascinating and “cogent, intelligent look at the Dead and the structure of American culture into which they so successfully tapped” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).
San Francisco's Grateful Dead brought its psychedelic blend of folk, bluegrass, and blues to the 1960s counterculture, along with a romance for the Beats and a love of anarchy that made it something more than a bond. Without radio play and virtually unnoticed by the press, the Dead forged a vast underground following whose loyalty survives to the present day.
National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author Carol Brightman returns to the band's roots—to Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, the acid tests and the heady days of Haight-Ashbury, the free concerts in Golden Gate Park and the formative shows of New York's Fillmore East—to uncover the secrets of the band's longevity. Drawing on exclusive interviews With band members, staff and crew, Deadheads, other musicians, journalists—and her own experience as a '60s activist—Brightman shows us how, amid the turbulent Free Speech Movement and antiwar rallies, the Grateful Dead's abandonment to music, drugs, and dance offered the faithful a shelter in the storm. Her riveting, in-depth portrait of Jerry Garcia, the "nonleader leader" who held to a vision of the Grateful Dead's destiny even as he recoiled from the juggernaut it became, shows us how it was that a Dead concert become something halfway between a revival meeting and a family reunion.
An absorbing and exhilarating exploration, Sweet Chaos offers, at last, a complete understanding of the Dead phenomenon and its place in American culture.