Grateful Dead Drummer Bill Kreutzmann on His Book 'Deal': 'It Took About 40 Years to Live'

bill kreutzmann
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"Throughout the history of the [Grateful] Dead, I've been known as the quiet one," notes drummer Bill Kreutzmann. "I'm like a sponge; I was just absorbing things to put in a book."

Now that book is here. Kreutzmann has just published Deal: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams, and Drugs with the Grateful Dead. Co-written with Benjy Eisen, it's a frank and revealing look at the group's touring adventures, complex interpersonal relationships and equally intricate music-making, and at Kreutzmann's own life, including his drug and alcohol issues, the inspiration of Native American chief Rolling Thunder and his mother's tragic suicide death. "I have no regrets about the book," Kreutzmann tells Billboard. "I stand by everything that I wrote in there. Writing Deal let me let go of all those stories, telling those tales, and make perspective out of it."

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Kreutzmann says the decision to write a book "was a long time coming" and has for many years been inspired by those around him. "Just telling stories at parties, getting relaxed with your friends and having a really good time, and I would tell stories," he recalls. "Every once in awhile a friend would say, 'Gee, you ought to write these down. You oughta write it down,' and that kept happening for awhile. And then about three years ago I got more serious about it and I interviewed for writers and it worked out wonderfully with [Eisen]. We worked on the book for three years now, and I'm really happy with it. It took three years to write but it took about 40 years to live, y'know?"

Writing about the band, Kreutzmann says he "was revealing the way I felt about people, the inner relationships with the people I was closest with. I didn't learn anything that way from writing the book." And there is, of course, plenty about the late Jerry Garcia and the other Dead members' attempts to encourage him to get healthy over the years.

"We did try to get him to go into rehab one time, in Denver," Kreutzmann says. "We had an intervention and we had a therapist there and we were all ready to go, 'You gotta go,' and he said 'yes' and didn't go, or he went to one place for a few weeks and didn't stay. He could talk rings around any therapist; they couldn't impress him enough to change his ways, 'cause he had a really deep belief that a person has a right to do what they want to do if it doesn't hurt someone else, which is a pretty darn fine line sometimes. But that was his belief. It was very frustrating."

Kreutzmann -- who's moved from Hawaii back to California and is playing Dead music with a band called Billy & the Kids -- demures from talking about the Dead's upcoming Fare The Well 50th anniversary shows in Santa Clara, Calif., and Chicago. "I'm really not supposed to talk about it very much," he says. "It's all happening. I don't have any expectations; I'm just going to have as much fun as I can." But you can bet he may write about it in the future; Deal ends with the promise "To be continued...," and Kreutzmann says there will be more old stories as well as new to be part of the sequel. "There's more book to be written about the future and possibly the past, also," he acknowledges. "That's the best I can say about that."


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