Is The World Ready For A Jerry Garcia Biopic?

Nov 12th, 2008 // 14 Comments

It’s kind of fashionable to dig the Grateful Dead these days, which is good because I dig the band’s first four or five records a lot and had an oh-so-brief flirtation with collecting bootlegs and such in 1992. But the live noodling never did it for me compared to the surprisingly jam-free records, and then I discovered Bob Mould and Pavement and The Cure and such. Those guys saved me from falling down the jam band rabbit hole and I emerged relatively unscathed, never owning more than one Dave Matthews Band record. (Yeah, I owned one. “Remember Two Things”, the Magic Eye one. I might still have it around here somewhere. Stop laughing.)

The team behind Election (yay!) and Little Miss Sunshine (lesser yay!) and Hamlet 2 (didn’t see it!) are putting together a biopic covering Jerry Garcia’s early years. I’m wondering who exactly is going to care–remember, this is about his life before the Dead. We’re not going to see a step-by-step recreation of the recording of American Beauty, which is what I’d want to see. We’re not even going to get an obligatory trying-to-kick-the-junk scene.

OK, I’d still watch it, sure, but I’m a guy who gets teary-eyed listening to “Box of Rain.” (Stop laughing.) What I wonder is whether Dead fans will “travel,” so to speak, to watch a fictionalized version of their hero’s life. After all, Dead fans are not as homogeneous as one might think. There are the classic road fans, the “trading beads for weed in the parking lot” crew, and I just don’t see those as a moviegoing lot. There are the new jam fans, who seem to be more enamored with Phish and String Cheese Incident than anything else. Then there’s the frat boy contingent, who showed up late in the game to generally act like drunk jerks, which is their way. They’ll probably skip this one for whatever romantic comedy their girlfriends want to see. (Don’t stop laughing.) Basically, all I see that’s left are the indie-rock closet fans (like, uh, me) and maybe the boomer crowd that wants to take one last trip through the Wild and Wonderful ’60s. To be fair, I find the Haight-Ashbury scene to have been remarkably sanitized onscreen thus far, so maybe this could be like the Saving Private Ryan of the psychedelic ’60s, sans the saluting old man who ruined everything at the end. Maybe the makers can dial up the verisimilitude for once and dial down the majestic, twinkly-eyed look back on the times that were a-changin’.

What do you think? Would you go see a Jerry Garcia biopic? Would you go see it if it included the finger-chopping-off incident? And don’t you think Jerry sort of looks like Billy Crudup?

Stop laughing.

Movie will trace Jerry Garcia’s life before Dead [Reuters]

  1. katesilver

    Anybody have a bootleg of Jerry Garcia at Oregon State Prison? I’ve been looking for that for years.

  2. chaircrusher

    Hey, “American Beauty” and “Workingman’s Dead” should be required listening for anyone. Especially all those post-ironic fixie-riding twats in Brooklyn, just so they’ll know it’s possible to write songs with a longer half life than a mocha latte. If the Grateful Dead weren’t the GRATEFUL DEAD and those albums were released today, they’d completely dwarf everything else in rock music.

    I think a pre-Dead Jerry bio is a brilliant idea. What could be a better story than a young hispanic guy falling in love with American roots music? Once the Dead got going it was pretty much all about the drug circus.

    Though Jerry did make occasional forays into bluegrass (google “Old And In The Way”) and jazz (google “Jerry Garcia Merle Saunders”). The guy could play, and imagine what he’d done if he’d not turned into such a drug casualty?

  3. Lucas Jensen

    @chaircrusher: Dude, I don’t need to google “Old And In The Way”. I own it.

  4. Anonymous

    This looks pretty exciting. I’m not the biggest Dead fan, but their Fillmore West ’69 set is unreal. Also, The Electric Cool-Aid Acid Test was a pretty great book.

    And, re: “Box of Rain” — their best song IMO, but I can never find a live version. Any Dick’s Picks have them on it?

  5. GhostOfDuane

    @Lucas Jensen: I mean, it is the best selling bluegrass album of all-time… But google it, dammit!

  6. GhostOfDuane

    @goldsounds: Here’s a great version of the great song from a great year from a great show in a great city:


  7. iantenna

    Though Jerry did make occasional forays into bluegrass

    not to be another ballbuster, but didn’t he start here back in the years this movie would cover?

    just found a green label garcia, sweet!

  8. dk428

    Does anyone know any DJ’s that have remixed Dead songs with electronic beats – like the DJ Harry/String Cheese Remix project?

  9. Lucas Jensen

    @dk428: Good question. Seems like a cash cow!

  10. okiedoke

    @dk428: Check out Pop-O-Pies

  11. dk428

    @Lucas Jensen: Highly recommend it if you like House and jam music. Good to hike or walk out to. Would love to find something like that with the Dead. Lately been rediscovering my inner-Deadhead…

  12. Oldboy

    Box Of Rain is a treasure.

  13. Anonymous

    “box of rain” – truly, a treasure. glorious. but not a jerry song. and such a letdown live.

    re: the biopic, i’m totally there – mostly curious about the dad-dies-in-front-of-li’l-jerry event.

  14. taper chris

    jay-z did some gd beats. meybe biggie too

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