What They‘re Saying About the Book

“An in-depth look at the Dead’s great American songbook, informed by the authors’ many decades of thought, analysis, and participation in the Grateful Dead phenomenon, this book takes up the question of the band’s finest songs with a compelling, refreshing, and thought-provoking look at these time-honored classics.”
Nicholas G. Meriwether, director, Center for Counterculture Studies

“In a stimulating overview of the band’s performing repertoire, these authors blend their personal concert experiences with the evolution of performances of the band’s most memorable compositions. An indispensible element of their publication is a vast online repository of their favorite live versions of the songs including many taped personally by Barnes.”
Michael Parrish, San Jose State University, co-organizer of the 2014 So Many Roads conference.

“The Grateful Dead left an immense trove of recordings — live performances and studio takes — documenting a 30-year career that yielded dozens of brilliant original songs as well as soulful and creative interpretations of material from other sources — all tied together with improvisation in a manner that amounts to a musical genre all its own. And the fan base may be even larger today than it was when Jerry Garcia left us in 1995. New arrivals to this cultural banquet are going to need some help navigating this mountain of music; in The Grateful Dead’s 100 Most Essential Songs: The Music Never Stops, two longtime fans of the music offer a delightful road map to help you get started.”
David Gans, musician and author of Conversations with the Dead and This Is All a Dream We Dreamed: An Oral History of the Grateful Dead

“Grateful Dead fans and academics Barnes and Trudeau, members of the Grateful Dead Scholars Caucus, provide illuminating if overly detailed profiles of what they deem the band’s 100 greatest songs. Each profile lists the number of times the band performed the song, memorable performances of the song, and elements that make the song essential listening. For example, the band debuted “Lazy River Road” on February 21, 1993, and they played it 65 times, including during the band’s final show in Chicago on July 9, 1995. According to Barnes and Trudeau, front man Jerry Garcia “was still in fine voice and plays it beautifully… it is a great window into what the Dead sounded like in their last years on the road.” The Dead performed “Casey Jones,” the story of a train engineer who wrecks his train, 312 times beginning in 1969 through 1992. “Truckin’,” arguably the best known Dead song (a “rocker that gets the crowd on its feet dancing and singing along”), made its debut in August 1970, and the band played it 519 times between then and 1995. Barnes and Trudeau’s entertaining book provides a useful introduction to the Dead’s representative music, offering first-time listeners a starting point and encouraging fans to pick up the songs and listen to them again.”

— Publisher’s Weekly


“In the studio and more than 2,300 concerts between 1965 and 1995, the Grateful Dead performed more than 400 different songs. Their music continues to be tremendously popular as surviving band members and countless tribute bands memorialize the legacy the band left us upon the death of lead guitarist and singer, Jerry Garcia. 

The Grateful Dead’s 100 Essential Songs examines the band’s remarkable musical journey, pairing song analyses and memories with an online list of recommended recordings. Beyond a mere summary of each song, the descriptions here compare individual performances as they relate to the evolution of the band’s style and the waning health but vibrant spirit of Garcia. Welcoming readers into the unbroken chain of the Dead’s legacy, this book is indispensable for Deadheads, students of popular music, rock musicians, and anyone marveling at how the Dead’s appeal continues today. 

With linked performances and studio recordings to allow readers to listen along with the book, as well as other song analyses and first-hand narratives of the authors’ experience at hundreds of Dead concerts, the book will appeal to Deadheads, students of popular music, rock musicians, and anyone marveling at how the Dead’s appeal continues today.”

—Guardian Book Shop

“Since 1970, over 100 books on the Grateful Dead have been published, and every year fans of the Dead have at least two or three new books to peruse as they travel along the mystical “golden road to unlimited devotion.” In The Grateful Dead’s 100 Essential Songs: The Music Never Stops (Rowman & Littlefield), Barry Barnes and Bob Trudeau — both members of the Grateful Dead Scholars Caucus, which is a section of the Southwest Popular Culture Association meetings — provide fact-filled profiles of the one hundred songs they believe are essential listening for, in their words, “a serious appreciation of the music of the Grateful Dead.” Of course, Deadheads are bound to quibble about which songs make the cut for this book, and so that conversation, like the music, will go on forever. In many ways, the book serves as a nice guide for first-time listeners who might wonder why people devote their musical lives to the Dead and what about this music keeps them listening to it. After all, the attraction that many find in the Dead’s intractable jams and musical explorations simply bore many listeners who can’t hear the reasons anyone would want to listen to the music, let alone listen to it obsessively. This book won’t convince those listeners — there are simply too many facts about which first-timers won’t care — but it will give them a starting point for finding the songs that might take them down that road.”

—No Depression, The Journal of Roots Music


“It doesn’t matter if you’re a hardcore Deadhead or a Grateful Dead lightweight, Barry and Bob wrote a masterpiece.”

– Cory Daniels, host of Dead Air – a nationally syndicated radio program