McNally's book was pretty good. Kreutzman's was great. My favorite in recent years was Steve Parrish's "Home Before Daylight."
Joel Selvin's book was a slog. While it may have been well researched, this book is more tell-all, tabloid drama rather than an even-handed, journalistic addition to the band’s history.Selvin betrays a very limited appreciation for the Dead or their music. The primary objective of as a hit-job on Phil and Jill Lesh. The treatment if the Lesh’s is borderline ridiculous. News flash: in-laws are difficult to deal with! What exactly would a veteran of the rock world expect in the wake of Jerry’s death? Continuous harmony? Slevin plays the drama around the Lesh’s up into some horrible, primary narrative that dominates the history of the band, post-Jerry. That narrative simply doesn’t match the reality that we have watched unfold.Slevin does not understand the music or the respective roles played by various band members. I suggest anyone who reads this catty account of backstage griping also seek out New Yorker “Deadhead: The afterlife” by Nick Paumgarten November 18, 2012. This is perhaps the most insightful examination of the band and Phil’s role in it. All lost on the author of this book.In the 20+ years since Garcia’s passing, fans have had the opportunity to see the core four plan in various permutations: solos, duos, trios, and all four together. We’ve seen younger, hotshot musicians pulled into the fold. We’ve seen the Dead’s repertoire get reggafied, bluegrassed, alt.countried, and alt.rocked. The Dead legacy has only grown in the last few decades and they have truly become their own idiom and genre. Witness New Orleans Jazz Fest this past May 2018. Multiple Dead tribute bands every night, even without a member of the core four in town.Any FAIR evaluation of the band members’ activities during the post-Jerry years would credit Phil Lesh above the others as preserving and extending that legacy. What has Billy (a personal hero of mine and the Dead’s unsung hero) really done to serve as a steward? He was on his own, isolated trip for years. Micky Hart was busy listening to planets collide and studying neuroscience. More power to him, but it wasn’t Grateful Dead music. Bob Weir, the ostensible hero of Slevin’s book, has spent two decades gigging constantly, exploring fairly selfish re-interpretations of Dead songs with weird vocal phrasings you can’t sing along to, through a fog of booze and sedatives.Meanwhile, Phil, fighting through serious physical hardships pushed the music forward. Through his various bands he has played with energy and immense creativity. You could actually dance, or be surprised, at Phil shows.But to Slevin, anything Phil or Jill Lesh does is driven by greed. No instance is too small to hold up as evidence of the Lesh’s malfeasance. Phil had a party for himself on his 60th birthday!!! The arrogance!!! Jill got into a spat with Mickey Hart’s wife!!! Stunning!!! Has this author never been to large family thanksgiving before?His animus towards the Lesh’s spills into his review of the concerts. Totally off base about Fare Thee Well. Read his comments about “Terrapin Station” and Phil singing. Fans long ago made piece with Phil’s weak voice. At least the man sings the tune. Listen when Bobby comes in with a weirdly phrased, off beat “Inspiration” and throws the band off its rhythm. Many attending thought “Mountains of the Moon” was a poignant high point. Slevin has no ability to access that.The bottomline for me is that since Jerry’s passing, the core four have played A LOT! The have experimented and done their thing. They haven’t all agreed, but when it has counted, they have come together and made it work. Slevin’s harsh telling of this story - especially the Lesh’s involvement - just doesn’t jibe with the results we’ve seen onstage. What super-functional aging rock band is Slevin comparing these guys to? Does anyone think the Stones could do any better after Keith or Mick dies? Hell no. The core four have done the best they can with the circumstances they were given. Amd they’ve kept trying. God bless ‘em.Saw Dead and Co. a few weeks back and it was,....slow. All respect for those guys, but I have to say that the proof is in the pudding and and pudding has shown me that Phil did have a better, deeper approach to Dead’s music. I can’t fault him for not wanting to tour with these guys forever. The Other Ones sounded the same,...half asleep.The man gave his life to the Dead. Has he not earned the right to play with whomever he wants to play with? (Especially when his choices lead to great results!?) To open a bar if he wants to? As for the sefish conditions he reportedly set on his involvement with the others, I would argue that they probably improved the product that eventually got to the audience.Leadership is a double-edged sword. You get some power and control when you lead, but you also get a lot of accountability. When you step up and take the lead, you are going to be criticized and second-guessed. Doing that within a dysfunctional family with many millions at stake? All the harder. This book tries to frame Phil Lesh as an opportunistic, manipulative, domineering band member,...without ever exploring what alternatives may have existed. In the chaos and shock that followed Jerry’s death, this family needed an adult to step forward and make some hard decisions. This book is Phil’s punishment for taking that role.
Sorry, I've jumped the rails in what was a thread expressing appreciation for Robert Hunter. This Selvin book hit a nerve with me. The Dead, and Robert Hunter in particular, were always great at "keeping the inside, inside." In other words, do not air your dirty laundry for the world to see. We've seen very, very little of the Dead members sniping at each other publically over the years. This Selvin book was a disappointing exception to that record. It is a shame. RIP Hunter.