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Raising the Dead

09/27/2010

Someone in your family dies. Arrangements are made, tears are shed, and eventually you begin to mourn. As months go by you will remember your loved ones passed and cherish whatever gifts they left behind until one day, they don’t even cross your mind. This is not a disservice or a crime, it is natural. We’re born, we live, we die. For those of us left behind, we move on.

Unless, the person passing happens to be a cultural icon. In that case, too much is at stake for anyone to move on too quickly. Too much money up for grabs, too many memories hanging in the balance, too many claims to fame to be had. So, court battles ensue, family and friends tear apart, and someone finds a way to keep profiting from the deceased’s legacy. Merchandise, re-releases, memorials, and, if they were really famous (or just obscure enough), movies.

Earlier this summer it was announced that Robert Greenfield’s Dark Star: An Oral Biography on Jerry Garcia will be adapted into a biopic featuring the early years of Jerry Garcia. The untitled project is to be directed by Amir Bar-Lev (The Tillman Story) and scripted by Topper Lilien (Dungeons and Dragons). Read the full Rolling Stone announcement by clicking here.

Two things that I have to say. First, a few minutes ago while researching Bar-Lev’s filmography, I realized that I met the man a few days ago and didn’t have a clue who he was or that he was attached to a Garcia biopic. A cool and cruel coincidence, I would say. I can only hope we cross paths again. Second, how could anyone look a Deadhead in the eye and tell them that the writer behind a video game-inspired action flick will be penning their hero’s life for the big screen?

Skeptical, I am.

But, believe it or not, that’s not even my biggest concern. Here is a statement from Grateful Dead Productions and the Jerry Garcia Family LLC:

“We want to make clear that neither Grateful Dead Productions nor the Jerry Garcia Family LLC are in any way working with — or are in any other way affiliated with — the supposed upcoming Amir Bar-Lev-directed biopic about Jerry Garcia. Furthermore, we will not be licensing any recordings from Grateful Dead or Jerry Garcia’s music library for this production nor will we provide the producer/director with access to any Garcia family members.” (click here for the full Relix article)

I’m worried that without the support or supervision of GDP and the JG Family certain corners will be cut that aren’t meant for cutting. For example, how do you get around music rights when telling the story of one of America’s greatest musicians? Seems a little like baking an apple pie… without the apples.

Then again, maybe being cut loose from GDP and the JG Family will allow the filmmakers a kind of freedom they wouldn’t have if they were constantly answering to others. We just have to hope that they have a genuine passion in telling Jerry Garcia’s story and that they strive to do his legacy justice. As an avid watcher of movies and storyteller myself, I know it’s a hard line to walk when considering your audience. So while I hope Bar-Lev and his crew do right by us Deadheads, I also respect their artistic rights.

How would you like to see Garcia depicted? What do you think Jerry would have to say about all of this? Do you think it’s right for the filmmakers to move forward without the support of the GDP and the JG family?

Good to be back on the road, I’ve missed you all :)

“I went to my house, my front door was locked
Went round to the window, found my window was locked
Jumped right back, I shook my head
Big old rounder in my folding bed
Shot through the window, broke the glass
Never seen that little rounder run so fast”

On the Road Again

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