Monday, January 02, 2006

Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics

Librarians sometimes do interesting things with their spare time. David Dodd documents the Dead. For eleven years he has been running the website The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics, posting lyrics and supplementing them with his own research and contributions from other fans of the band. In 1996 he co-edited The Grateful Dead and the Deadheads: An Annotated Bibliography , and in 2000 he co-edited The Grateful Dead Reader. Now, from the wealth of the long running website, he has compiled a handsome book The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics.

By my count, there are lyrics for 184 songs in this 480 page book, including more than just the works from the many record albums and boxed CD sets. Dodd, who is now the city librarian of San Rafael, California, has attempted to be inclusive and comprehensive. With the help of band members and fans, he has added lyrics for songs that were performed live, sometimes only once. While many of the songs were penned by the band members, especially Robert Hunter and John Barlow, others were traditional folk or blues pieces; Dodd chronicles the origins of all these songs, tells when they were first performed, and cites when they were recorded. Fourteen of these songs are from the post-Jerry Garcia era.

Did you know King Faisal of Saudi Arabia was a Grateful Dead fan? See the annotations for "Blues for Allah." Who is "Sweet Jane"? See "Truckin'." "Ramble on Rose" gets six pages of annotations. These annotations vary from simple statements identifying personal and place names to lengthy discussions on the origins of phrases or story lines. What Dodd avoids throughout the book is saying "what a song means." Readers get to make their own interpretations.

If you scan the book, you will find the songs are arranged by date of first performance. You will also see many Dead-appropriate illustrations by Jim Carpenter, which add greatly to the beauty of the book. The back of the book includes a general index, an index of songs, profiles of the lyricists, a bibliography, and notes about Grateful Dead instrumentals.

The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics is a big book that will keep Deadheads and reference librarians happy for many days, maybe even weeks.

The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics: The Collected Lyrics of Robert Hunter and John Barlow, Lyrics to All Original Songs, with Selected Traditional and Cover Songs. With annotations by David Dodd; illustrated by Jim Carpenter. New York: Free Press, 2005. ISBN 0743277473


David Dodd said...

Many thanks for the excellent summary of the book! It's great to hear from a fellow librarian.
PS Your post was forwarded to me by my wonderful friend, Sarah Houghton, aka The Librarian in Black.

ricklibrarian said...


I am most impressed by the work. It was a pleasure to review.