This outsider band finally notched a Top 10 single 22 years into its career (1987's "Touch of Grey"), which ballooned interest in the group. However, the Grateful Dead's success was often more for the spectacle of the shows and its followers' customs and practices than the music.
The song's accompanying video, in which the track is performed mostly by skeletal doppelgangers of group members, was an unexpected MTV hit. And yes, Richardson writes, they used actual human skeletons ordered from a medical-supply service.
The irony of the ultimate hippie band finding its greatest popularity in the Reagan/Bush years is not lost on the author. In 1991, the Grateful Dead was the largest-grossing rock band in the United States.
Jerry Garcia died in 1995 at age 53 from a heart attack while in residence at a drug rehab facility, another effort to try and stem years of cocaine and heroin abuse and addiction. And while members have recorded and toured in various combinations as the Other Ones, Further and the Dead in addition to solo bands and projects, as a unit the Grateful Dead died with its core spirit, Jerry Garcia -- though he lives on in the sound systems and around the neck of millions.
No Simple Highway more than serves its goal of looking at the Grateful Dead as not just a rock & roll, but a cultural institution with some insight. And while the band's story has indeed been a long, strange trip, it wasn't one taken in isolation.
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