Searching for the Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead Review
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Searching for the Sound is a new rockography written by Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh. It’s an in-depth account of the band’s history, as told by one of its founding members. Lesh’s attention to detail shines through as, page after page, he treats his readers to thorough descriptions of the processes inherent in making music—from the writing of songs like “Uncle John’s Band” right down to the invention of many then-new technologies, such as the “wall of sound.”

It might be easy to presume that this book would be tedious and sterile—as many books dealing with music theory can be—but that’s not the case here. In fact, the opposite is true. The details of the musical process only add to the overall impressiveness and excitement of the book. Lesh is to be credited for foraging where many rock biographers either won’t or simply can’t go—into the deep wells of music creativity. And rather than deconstruct the songs as some critics might, relying on practiced methods for evaluating a musician’s purpose, he builds upon them by taking his readers by the arm and guiding them on a similar journey, allowing those who have never written a song to experience what it’s like to live inside this process.

Searching for the Sound is also extremely well-written. While it may not be in the same league as books written by Hemingway, Salinger, or Ginsberg, it avoids the pitfalls of other rock 'n' roll bios (which are often overwrought with that feeling of falling hopelessly toward certain destruction and doom). Instead, he delivers a kind of tenderness and a real appreciation for having been able to live a life filled with musical experience.

Although Lesh tends to focus far more attention on the music itself—sometimes missing the opportunity to expand on certain legendary personalities, such as Janis Joplin or Keith Richards—he makes his readers feel as though they’re actually there behind the scenes at events like Woodstock and Altamont because he reveals his private thoughts and opinions as the book progresses. He even shares personal details about his feelings towards his father's passing and, of course, his devastation at the deaths of some of his fellow band mates, including rock legend Jerry Garcia.

Whether you're a Deadhead or a music enthusiast—or if you’re simply interested in reading a really solid book that spans the decades from the fifties to the nineties—Searching for the Sound delivers a poignant, soulful look at life through the eyes of a rock star.

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