Grateful Dead "No Simple Highway
by Author Peter Richardson
Published In January
For almost three decades, the Grateful Dead was one of America's most popular touring bands. But while their albums sold well over time, the group never had a number one song, and they cracked the top ten lists only once, which raises the question, what accounts for the band’s long-standing popularity?
Now, with the 50th anniversary of the band’s creation in 2015, NO SIMPLE HIGHWAY: A Cultural History of the Grateful Dead by Peter Richardson (St. Martin’s Press; January 20, 2015; $26.99 hardcover) is the first book to attempt and answer this deceptively simple question.
Routinely caricatured by the mainstream media, the Grateful Dead are often portrayed as grizzled hippy throwbacks. In NO SIMPLE HIGHWAY, Richardson corrects that impression, revealing them to be one of the most popular, versatile, and resilient ensembles in the second half of the twentieth century. While the band’s image, and their status as countercultural heroes aided in their popularity, Richardson argues that their appeal arose from their uncanny ability to tap into three powerful utopian ideals—their commitment to ecstasy (the urge to transcend), mobility, and community— and how it was these ideals that struck deep chords with two generations of American youth and continues today.
NO SIMPLE HIGHWAY is one of the first books to have access to the material from the Grateful Dead archives, and Richardson draws on new research and interviews to vividly recount the Dead's colorful history and add new insight into everything from the acid tests to the band's formation of their own record label to their massive late career success.