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Persuading the Dead:
The Persuasions Sing the Grateful Dead

Produced by The Kitchen Sisters (Nikki Silva & Davia Nelson) with Amy Standen. Mixed by Jim McKee at Earwax Productions in San Francisco

The Persuasions

  • Listen in Real Audio:
    14.4 - 28.8 - G2 Sure Stream.
  • More from lyricist Robert Hunter on the roots of the Grateful Dead's music.
  • Read excerpts from producer David Gans' studio diary.
  • Read some observations from executive producer Rip Rense.
  • View links related to this story.
  • Sound, lost and found: it can get you out of bed at the crack of dawn to sit in a damp marsh just to hear a rare bird sing. It can make you spend hundreds of dollars at the record swap for the 78 you need to complete your collection. It can make you quit your job and follow a rock band on the road

    Sound holds a special power over us. This story is inspired by a sound that has been surrounded by some of the most devoted listeners ever -- the music of the Grateful Dead. The songs of Jerry Garcia and lyricist Robert Hunter have recently been discovered by a new group of devotees: The Persuasions, the a cappella singers who started making music on street corners some 40 years ago. This summer, The Persuasions stepped into a record studio in Berkeley, California, to re-find the sound of the Grateful Dead.

    The Persuasions started out singing soul, and since then, they've covered everything from gospel to Motown to Kurt Weil to Frank Zappa. The Grateful Dead combined bluegrass and folk influences with the radical spirit of their times. So when the a cappella group took up the songs of the musical icons of the 1960s counterculture, it was a twenty-first century recording session devoted to the songs of a quintessentially twentieth century group with musical roots stretching into the nineteenth century and earlier.

    In this story, as we listen in on the recording of their new album of Grateful Dead songs, Might as Well...,, The Persuasions show us again what power sound can have -- and that making good music is a process of continually finding and re-finding sound.

    Persuasions Links

    Producer David Gans' Persuasions Project page

    The Persuasions Home Page

    Other Related Links

  • Robert Hunter's Personal archive contains his lyrics as well as pictures of some early handwritten drafts. The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics has more information on Hunter and his work.
  • Standing in the Soul: An Interview with Robert Hunter by Steve Silberman.
  • For more on the bluegrass and folk influence on the Grateful Dead, see the Roots of the Grateful Dead site.
  • Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music, released in 1952, allowed many people, including Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia, to discover the folk music of rural America. Smithsonian Folkways and the Harry Smith Archives have more on the Anthology.
  • Bill Monroe, the "Father of Bluegrass," was an important early influence on Hunter and Garcia.

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    Copyright 2000 The Kitchen Sisters