Veteran music writer Blair has fashioned a moving and insightful biography of Grateful Dead leader Jerry Garcia by focusing on the most important and enduring part of his legacy: his music. For three decades the Dead remained one of the most interesting and daring music ensembles around. Garcia himself over that time sustained a level of artistry and innovation as a musician and composer rare in 20th-century music history. Skillfully weaving these themes within the personal events of Garcia’s life, including his 14 years as a junkie, and the social history that Garcia both witnessed and helped bring to life—from the halcyon days of Haight-Ashbury to the phenomenon of the Deadheads of the 1980s—Jackson produces perhaps as clear an understanding of the man as we are likely to get. Originally a bluegrass banjo player, Garcia brought to the Dead the conversational nature of bluegrass, the need within that music for the instruments to talk to one another. Going electric and joining with sympathetic players allowed for Garcia an infinite expansion of that original “conversational” insight. Playing at LSD-inspired gatherings in San Francisco, and taking plenty of LSD themselves further extended the Dead’s proclivity for improvisation (and Garcia’s proclivity for drug taking) and allowed them to learn how to do it well. Particularly interesting here is the story of Garcia’s relationship with lyricist Robert Hunter (he of the often cryptic lyrics on foreboding and death), of how that relationship developed over a generation, how Hunter could say what Garcia felt. Theirs was a much underappreciated musical collaboration. There are also side trips to Garcia’s many musical explorations outside of the Dead, from country to jazz to R&B. Garcia emerges in the end as a flawed genius, whose personal demons, especially drugs, inspired his music, eventually weakened it, and finally silenced it. Yet the book is an unapologetic celebration of Garcia’s life rather than a lament on his death. Fine reading on a most curious American life. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 1999

ISBN: 0-670-88660-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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