I was older than most people when I finally got into the Dead. But when I got into them, I really got into them. For me, the Dead belong in this strange category of American cultural effluvia that hide their genius behind middle-brow maximalism. The show 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia' is in this category. And college football. So's the comedian Theo Von.
The ship is so gaudy and déclassé you doubt that it could be carrying precious cargo. But it is. And this kind of sentimental or tasteless bombast - horror movies, garage rock, etc. - has in many ways been the most interesting and valuable thing about American popular culture.
Dead lyricist Robert Hunter was a spokesman for this kind of profoundly silly, but occasionally just profound, strain in American culture. All of the classic songs he penned for albums like 'American Beauty' and 'Workingman's Dead' are just a touch too impish to stand next to the original border ballads or cowboy songs. They were always closer to suburban daydreams than mystic chants or the harrowing moans of Delta blues. But that's exactly what made them honest, the fact that they so openly appropriated so many familiar tropes for their own prankster purposes.
Because here we are in the suburbs. Daydreaming. Hacking away at irony like explorers looking for lost ruins of authenticity.
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor