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The strange lives and far-out times of The Grateful Dead

We take a look back at The Grateful Dead's far out career, from the Summer Of Love through drugs, death, hanging with Hells Angels and creating a catalogue unique in American music

Has anyone outside the band’s fan following – more a communion than anything – ever made sense of the Grateful Dead? To some they remain the ultimate arcane cult band, too hands-off for general consumption; the lost symbol of what rock music was like before the man, in the guise of corporate marketing, worked out how to fleece us all.

Perhaps they were too parochial. Even their latter-day publicist, Dennis McNally, admitted it was a struggle to explain the band to the uninitiated. “It was always a challenge because there’s so much distraction about them,” he said. “But if you ignore the rabid fans and the expected facts of American entertainment, there’s a richness that fills your soul. They explored freedom and gave us a phenomenal revaluation of American values.”

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From the archive

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