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Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead
Rock Legends of the 60s and 70s
Jerry Garcia’s life was filled with wonderful things, many of which he never expected in the first place. After an almost fatal heroin overdose in 1986, “ Garcia philosophically stated, ‘ I’m 45 years old, I’m ready for anything, I didn’t even plan on living this long so all this shit is just add-on stuff.’ ” (“Garcia”) This attitude shows why Garcia did all of the things he did and even how some of them came about. Garcia, who “functioned as the preeminent pied piper of the rock era,” led a life of great artistic ability which he used in many ways(“Grateful Dead_ Rockhall”).
Jerry Garcia was born as Jerome John Garcia on 1 August, 1942 in San Francisco, California (“Garcia”/’Grateful Dead”). Garcia learned to play folk and rock & roll when he was 15 even though the third finger on his left hand was missing because of an accident as a child. In 1959 he served in the U.S. Army for a very short period of time (“Garcia”/Erlewine_). J.J. Garcia, also known as Captain Trips, was a diabetic heroine addict and was arrested on charges of heroine possession in 1985(Erlewine_/”Grateful Dead_ Rockhall”/”Garcia”). While in a Forest Knolls, California drug treatment center, Garcia died on 9 August 1995(“Grateful Dead”). Some of his ashes were scattered in the Ganges River not long after he died, and the rest were scattered into the San Francisco Bay in the second week of April 1996(“This Is the Week That Was”E7). The effect of his death was equivalent to those of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Elvis Presley, and John Lennon. When Garcia died “The press was largely in agreement, concerning that a major talent in the world of music had passed on (either that or all the news editors on daily newspapers are all 40-something ex-hippies.)”(“Grateful Dead”) The “pied piper” was and is now no more than a legend in many people’s eyes. The band name as well went down with Jerry as a unanimous agreement among the band members(“Grateful Dead”).
Captain Trips first played with Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions who became the Warlocks in 1965 and later became the “seminal ‘60s rock & roll band the Grateful Dead” for which Garcia is most known(“Jerry Garcia_”). Grateful Dead is a name that was randomly chosen from an open copy of the Oxford English Dictionary.
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“Pigpen” McKernan on organ, Phil Lesh on bass, Bill Kruetzmann on drums, and of course Jerry Garcia as leader and guitarist. The Dead’s former and existing members are well know as “Deadheads.” With the band “Led by Garcia’s venturesome, modal guitar work, the Dead would delve into blues, folk, R&B, and spacey improvisations for hours on end,” which would have some sets last as long as six hours(“Grateful Dead_ Rockhall”). At the Dead’s concerts “It was never ascertained who imbibed more psychedelic chemicals, the audience or the band,” which made the concerts even more interesting(“Grateful Dead”). The piper’s other groups included Jerry Garcia & David Grisman, the Jerry Garcia Band, the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band, and Old & In the Way which included David Grisman, Vassar Clements, and John Kuhn. He also appeared with Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, David Crosby, Paul Kantner, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young(“Garcia”/”Jerry Garcia_”).
Within Garcia’s Rock & Roll, Folk-Rock, and Country Rock history, his music could be described as reflective, gentle, trippy, organic, or intimate; the same was basically true for his artwork as well(“Jerry Garcia_”). Through the Grateful Dead’s sound the psychedelic revolution and the spirit of the Sixties have been kept for decades. “Deadheads and critics alike contended that the best way to experience the group was in concert, where the band-fan bonding ritual drove the music to its zenith,” causing the best styles of the Dead to rise higher, and higher. “Anthem of the Sun”, “Workingman’s Dead”, “American Beauty” and “Grateful Dead” (a.k.a. “Skull & Roses”) served as record highlights. “Dark Star” was their signature song(“Jerry Garcia_”). Some of Garcia’s pieces of art were: Blue Iceberg, Butterfly Study, Cherry ‘57 Nash, Down at the Ritz, Dracula’s Heart, Feeding in the Fight, Flaming Meadow, and Garcia/Grisman. Between Garcia’s music, artwork and trippy personality he had many styles to work with(“Fine Art_”).
Jerome John Garcia lived an extraordinary life full of great achievements in his 53 years. As he himself said, he had no idea what a life he would live or how long of one. His outgoing hippy style let him do whatever he wanted to which probably started his career and eventually ended it. Garcia’s life wasn’t anything to complain about. He had great abilities and knew how to use them correctly. Life in his hands was like trying to make a wild African Ass do whatever you tell it to do, it is always going to do whatever it
wants to no matter what. Garcia lived on the wild side and that let him be free to roam around through all sorts of things, which helped him discover many of his ‘gifts’ in life, that many others might not have been able to do or find.
Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. “Jerry Garcia.” AMG. [On-line] Available: <http://www.allmusic.com/html> Accessed 28 March, 2001.
“Garcia.” The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. 3rd ed. 1999.
“Grateful Dead.” The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. 3rd ed. 1999.
“Grateful Dead.” Rockhall.com. [On-line] Available: <http://www.rockhall.com/html> Accessed 28 March, 2001.
“Jerry Garcia Fine Art.” Northamericanartworks.com. [On-line] Available:
<http://www.northamericanartworks.com/html> Accessed 2 April, 2001.
“This Is the Week That Was.” Chattanooga Times Free Press. Saturday, April 14, 2001: E7.
Garcia, who “functioned as the preeminent pied piper of the rock era,” led a life of great artistic ability which he used in many ways.