Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Biography: Jerry Garcia

Just finished watching Biography: Jerry Garcia, and I must admit I was a bit disappointed. You would think the best way to reflect who Jerry was would of been by showcasing his music. There were a couple clips from Grateful Dawg and Live at Shoreline, but very little else. The background music could of been Jerry, Dead, Old and In The Way, whatever, but instead was this generic 'hippy' droll. What were they thinking??? In addition, alot of the still photos that they showed didn't synch up with the time period that was being covered. For example, they named albums from the early 70s and concurrently showed the album covers. When the mentioned Skull and Roses, they showed the cover of their very first studio album. Ugh.

The interviews were interesting, but who was interviewed was a bit unexpected. If you didn't pick a regular bandmember, who would of you picked to interview? Hunter, right? No, Barlow actually. Barlow as good, don't get me wrong, but he wasn't as tight with Garcia as many others were. In fact, the only one who was tight with Garcia over the years was Parrish. Donna was a good interview, as was Trey Anastasio (as a fan). The interviews with Trixie and Tiff were kind of depressing.

I did enjoy however the TV interviews with Jerry, where his true charisma came across full-force. The interviews with Blair Jackson were strong too, reinforcing what he had wrote in his outstanding biography of Garcia (post on this to come in the near future).

The Dead organization was not listed in the credits, but the Garcia estate was. There couldn't of been to much input from either into the the production of this show, but who knows how much input they were allowed. Bottom line is that who ever was responsible for this didn't know very much about Jerry or The Grateful Dead, and the sloppy results showed. Not the tribute that I would of hoped for, but come to think of, a pristine biography of Jerry wouldn't of been quite right either.


At 3:37 PM, Anonymous Stewart said...

I saw the Biography show too and your post is so dead on it's like you read my mind! The clips of interviews with Jerry were great for the reasons you mentioned -- showed his wonderful larger than life personality -- and Trey and Blair were also well-informed and their perspectives interesting. But as you note, where was all the glorious music? How can you understand Jerry's life without hearing what made him so very special? Instead we got photos of Jerry that were taken often decades apart from the period of his life that was being discussed, and the same photos were recycled over and over.

Also, when you only have 45 minutes to portray his incredibly full and diverse life, why both start and end the program with lots of shadowy images of anonymous drug use that feels like it was recycled from an old Hard Copy episode? I'm not saying they should have ignored that side of his life completely, but using it to seemingly titillate was just depressing.

Finally, the interview with Jerry's daughter was unintentionally heart-breaking. She clearly isn't over his death after 10 years, and it shows the mundane sadness that must come from having an absentee father who then died way too soon. I think that is more condemnable in Jerry than his drug use (though of course the two are related).

Anyway, great review of the show Ben, and again when Jerry's genius is his music, why didn't the show just let us "just listen to the music play" (at least as background!)?

At 8:24 PM, Blogger allison said...

I actually missed the Bio, but I guess it doesn't sound like I missed much.

I think the folks out here on the blogs, and the folks who lived it themselves, and the kids who grew up in the scene would have been able to pull something better than this off.

Any attempt at a Jerry Bio needs to be done right. There are too many of us out there that will recognize the screw ups.

At 8:52 PM, Blogger Ben said...

Allison - Well said. Of course there is talk of a Jerry movie too, which I'm naturally skeptical of.

What really surprises me is the lack of any input from The Dead Organization. Donna & Barlow were the only band members interviewed. No Phil, Bobby, Mickey, Bill or Hunter. No Vince, no Grisman, no Mountain Girl.

You would think that GDP/GDM would have it in their best interest to get involved as much as possible to 'get it right' with such a high profile program. Maybe they did, but something got in the way. Who knows.

Hey Justin, have you given thought to making a Garcia 'Biography'? Someone who was close to Jerry, I mean really knew him, needs to put something together that will truly reflect his genius, his demons, and most of all, his music.

At 10:31 AM, Blogger Mark said...

I'm with Allison. It's too bad they did such a hatchet job on what could have been a great tribute.

At 3:53 PM, Blogger James said...

Biography shows hardly ever use actual music when they are covering musicians. I would imagine that they can't -or don't want to- pay for the rights. It is rather odd to see an entire program on an artist (they've done others beside Jerry) and not hear a single actual song!


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