The tale of the Grateful Dead is inspiring, complicated, and downright messy. A tribe of contrarians, they made art out of open-ended chaos and inadvertently achieved success on their own terms. Never-before-seen footage and interviews offer this unprecedented and unvarnished look at the life of the Dead.
How do you explain the Grateful Dead phenomena to one who hasn't experienced it? How do you explain color to someone who sees in black and white? You can experience the Dead or color and not understand what others see in it. It can be just another music act or just another shade of gray or black or white. This doc tries to explain the mystical connection to the Dead, because really that is what it is - the initials GD are not an accident, nothing is. As the origin of the name "Grateful Dead" is explained in the early going of the doc a famous conception from Hegel came to me, "Die to Live." Which to me sums up the message of this movie as it pounds home the same message over and over about the nature of Jerry Garcia's vision for his life and music. The life lived outside the box, always moving in a new direction, fun as the purpose of life. As for a history of the Dead there are new things here, but there is only so much you can do with a 4 hour movie and there are some autobiographies that serve that function much better. This is more like an introduction into "Jerry Garcia and His Cult of the Dead." More so than what occurs around other musicals acts what binds the real Deadheads (rather than just those who appreciate the music or whatever), is a similar "divine" experience in the music, live or otherwise. And of course that is/was based on the psychedelics people take as this doc tries to make clear in the early going. The metaphysical nature of psychedelics combined with a band that was divinely designed to express the divine metaphysical mysteries of the universe in a way that can touch everyone individually tried to be explained. For example it's why so many of the lyrics are so opaque so often - they need to be so they can reveal different things in the moment to each individual in due course of time. Through music the Dead opened up a divine world of deep ecstasy for the newly psychedelically sensitized and spiritually opened people who often found themselves reborn into a world of higher dimensional/transcendental possibilities - a higher reality was promised - and it was delivered. "G-D well I declare have you seen the...light?" Reborn in song, past conceptions on the limitations of reality now dead, we are grateful. Can you explain the Dead? Sure. Can people understand the Dead? Only the initiates.
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