cover image Fare Thee Well: The Final Chapter of the Grateful Dead’s Long, Strange Trip

Fare Thee Well: The Final Chapter of the Grateful Dead’s Long, Strange Trip

Joel Selvin, with Pamela Turley. Da Capo, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-0-306-90305-2

The San Francisco Chronicle’s pop music writer Selvin offers an exhaustive, warts-and-all story of how the Grateful Dead battled through the rough two decades following Jerry Garcia’s death. The narrative begins in 1995 with Garcia’s death and the surviving four Dead members trying to right their ungainly hippie enterprise. The messy relationships that had developed between the members of the quartet over the course of the previous three decades collapsed after losing the band’s “father figure.” Without Garcia’s nonconfrontational Zen attitude, bassist Phil Lesh, guitarist Bob Weir, and drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann descended into a thicket of business disagreements and personal irritations. Each took to the road independently, playing to dedicated crowds of Deadheads, with constantly revolving lineups. The soap opera battles achieve epic heights in this telling, such as one night when Lesh’s “mean, deliberate power play” forces fans to choose between his band and Weir’s. The narrative pays microscopic attention to each concert and every argument, but Selvin livens it up in sunnily composed passages, such as the triumphant 50-year celebration at Chicago’s Soldier Field: “it was not the Grateful Dead, only an earnest facsimile. To the audience, however, it was enough.” This is an enthusiastic but clear-eyed and enjoyably gossipy piece of modern rock history. (June)