Live Dead: The Grateful Dead, Live Recordings, and the Ideology of Liveness

Duke Univ. Dec. 2023. 232p. ISBN 9781478025481. pap. $26.95. MUSIC
Brackett (music, Vance-Granville Community Coll.; John Zorn: Tradition and Transgression) presents a fine overview of the Grateful Dead’s live oeuvre, covering both the tapes made by audience members and officially released recordings. Rather than explore the music per se, the focus is on the concept of “liveness” and the ways cultural and social influences play into how the music is heard. A point that the author turns to repeatedly throughout the book is that recordings of live music, especially when not doctored after the fact, are viewed as more “authentic” than music taped in a studio. What “authentic” means is, of course, up for debate, and Brackett examines this view from a variety of angles. He is to be commended for keeping his writing clear and relatively free of jargon and abstruse theory. In fact, this title is highly accessible to general readers, at least the ones who are interested in the Grateful Dead.
VERDICT An accessible and convincing deep dive into live Dead and the ways in which their music continues to resonate in many nonmusical ways.
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