The B List: 10 Favorite Grateful Dead Books

[Originally Published March 26, 2009]

I’ll never forget the day late Grateful Dead keyboardist Brent Mydland passed away in 1990. I was playing hockey at Camp Westmont when a bunkmate’s brother came down the hill to tell us Brent had died. Now, I’ll be honest – I didn’t know a thing about the band at the time, but I wanted to find out. One of my Deadhead counselors turned me onto David Gans and Peter Simon’s well-written biography of the band, Playing in the Band, and I was immediately fascinated by the history of the band.

Over the past twenty years, I’ve read a number of books on the Grateful Dead and some are spectacular and some aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. The latest tome on the band – Peter Conners’ Growing Up Dead: The Hallucinated Confessions of a Teenage Deadhead – is available now at and in honor of what looks to be a terrific addition to a Deadhead’s bookshelf, I’ve put together a list of my ten favorite books on the band…

10. Skeleton Key – David Shenk, Steve Silberman

I’ll never forget David & Steve’s book as the first time I ever saw the phrase 4:20. Skeleton Key offers bite-sized tidbits on phrases that are part of the Deadhead vocabulary – such as 4:20 – among its 400 pages of history, lore, and interviews about the band.

READ ON for nine more of Scotty’s favorite books on the Dead…

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The Valuable Life Lessons of Anthony Kiedis

No matter how much you listen to a band, read their interviews or whittle your workday away on their message boards, there’s something about reading a biography, especially an autobiography, that takes your knowledge to an entirely new level. When written well, hearing the story from the horse’s mouth makes it feel like you were there from the beginning and gives real insight to who these people really are, how they interact, what they really care about and, of course, how they came up with the music you love.

As someone who has read a fair amount of music bios over the years, spanning the gamut from Ben Fong-Torres’ Gram Parsons biography Hickory Wind to Alice Cooper’s autobiography Golf Monster, I can say with easy honesty, that Anthony Kiedis’ Scar Tissue (with Larry Sloman) is without question the best I’ve ever read. In fact, it’s probably the quickest read of any book of any book I’ve ever read. The pages turn themselves. A lot of this comes from the fact that Kiedis’ life is nothing short of fascinating, but it’s also due to the fact that the writing is fluid and wildly honest, giving open accounts of his addictions, failed attempts at love, and personal dynamics within one of our generation’s few cutting edge big bands.

So many times throughout the course of this journey, Anthony reveals interesting factoids, anecdotes, and philosophies, so I thought I’d share some of the more compelling ones below. Heads up for anyone who may still read the book as this is your SPOILER ALERT, but this list is just the tip of the iceberg, so I wouldn’t worry about it.

The Secret to Aging Gracefully – Back when the Chili Peppers recorded Freaky Styley, they packed up and moved the band to Detroit to record and live with George Clinton of Parliament-Funkadelic. Of all the valuable philosophies and life lessons the band learned from the hairy funk architect, the one that sticks out most is his recipe for aging gracefully, despite years and years of extremely hard partying. What’s the secret? Prune juice.

READ ON for more life lessons from Anthony Kiedis…

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