Jerry Garcia was one of the more engaging, funny and enlightening interviews to be had in rock music. His thoughtful, honest and sometimes abstract answers always provided a good read. Why, then, is The Wisdom of Jerry Garcia such an utter failure at every level? Well…there’s the design, both cover and interior, which look like they were made on a Xerox machine. There’s also the content which, while pure Garcia, is presented in random order and without context. Oh…a few quotes feature an “About Bob Weir,” or “About the Grateful Dead” lead-in, but the majority just sit there on the page. “I’m only human” or “I know what pain is” are meaningless quotes without any context.
The Wisdom of Jerry Garcia could have, and should have been a home run. More recent books mining musician’s thoughts via direct quotations have proven successful, both commercially and artistically; Willie Nelson’s Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die, and What Would Keith Richards Do? come immediately to mind. Unfortunately, this book is just so poorly conceived and executed, it does disservice to the wit and wisdom of Jerry Garcia. In fact, it was published the same year he died; while it’s possible it was a labor of love (although no author is listed and it’s merely a compendium of quotes from various interviews), it smacks more of a cheap attempt to cash in. Do yourself a favor; find one of the many in-depth interviews with the guitarist, follow where it leads and enjoy the ride. This book goes nowhere.