Few bands in popular music have had a more dynamic literary history than the Grateful Dead.
From the works that inspired them, such as Henry Cowell’s 1955 biography of composer Charles Ives and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, to the New Journalism they inspired by authors such as Tom Wolfe, the band was shaped by—and an active participant in—the broader literary currents of its era.
Even today, nearly 50 years after the band was formed, new books about the Grateful Dead—from an unusually wide variety of disciplines and perspectives—are still appearing every year, despite the multiple volumes that already fill book shelves around the world.
With that in mind, UC Santa Cruz has put together the third annual exhibition for the campus’s Grateful Dead Archive titled All the Pages Are Our Days: The Books of the Grateful Dead.
Curated by Grateful Dead Archivist Nicholas Meriwether, it opens on August 2 at McHenry Library in the Brittingham Family Foundation’s Dead Central gallery space.
“The exhibit will tell the story of the Grateful Dead through the books that informed them, and in turn, the books they inspired,” said Meriwether. “But it will do much more than that, by showcasing a wide variety of images and materials to show context, including manuscripts, photographs, artwork, and music releases.”
Those materials include a 109-page draft of a screenplay, written in the mid 1980s by the Dead’s Jerry Garcia and (Saturday Night Live comedian) Tom Davis, for a film version of Kurt Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan.
The exhibition will also feature 16 of Mickey Hart’s CDs, including his Endangered Music Project for the Smithsonian Institution, as well as a display on band lyricist Robert Hunter, featuring photographs, posters, and manuscripts.
Non-fiction, ranging from memoirs by band members Garcia, Hart, and Phil Lesh, to Bob Weir’s children’s books, will also be exhibited, along with books written by the late UC Santa Cruz music professor Fred Lieberman in collaboration with Hart.
“This exhibition shows how the Grateful Dead came of age in an artistic and literary scene, and how they in turn, sparked an extraordinary literary outpouring—both as musicians and cultural figures,” Meriwether noted.
“Books are a window into the Dead, and the Archive is a window into those books. The Books of the Dead provides a skeleton key to the significance and achievement of the band and the place of the Grateful Dead phenomenon in American culture.”