Released in 1970, Workingman's Dead was the breakthrough album for the Grateful Dead, a cold-water-shock departure from the Acid Test madness of the late `60s. It was the band's most commercially and critically successful release to date. More importantly, these songs established the blueprint for how the Dead would maintain and build upon a community held together by the core motivation of rejecting the status quo - the "straight life" - in order to live and work on their own terms.
As a unified whole, the album's eight songs serve as points of entry into a fully-rendered portrait of the Grateful Dead within the context of late twentieth-century American history. These songs speak to the attendant cultural and political anxieties that resulted from the idealism of the `60s giving way to the uncomfortable realities of the `70s, and the band's evolving perspective on these changes. Based on research, interviews, and personal experience, this book probes the paradox at the heart of the band's appeal: the Grateful Dead were about much more than music, though they were really just about the music.