VIP Jerry Garcia

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Jerry Garcia (August 1, 1942 - August 9, 1995)

Named for composer Jerome Kern by his musician parents, Jerry Garcia was serious about music from an early age. As lead guitarist for the Grateful Dead, he took millions down the rabbit hole when the band provided the trippy sound track for the acid tests of the 60s.

Despite losing part of a finger in an accident at age 4, Garcia played piano in his youth. At 15 he started smoking marijuana and attending the San Francisco Art Institute. After a stint in the army, he began performing at coffeehouses in San Francisco with lyricist Robert Hunter. He first tried LSD in 1964, after which his folk music style took on a free-form feel. Both with the Dead and with the Jerry Garcia Band, he allowed the audience to tape his live performances, and the nightly improvisations prove he was part jazz musician.

Apart from The Dead, Garcia recorded bluegrass tracks with mandolinist David Grisman. He was listed as "spiritual adviser" on Jefferson Airplane's 1967 psychedelic-pop breakthrough Surrealistic Pillow, and in 1969 he co-founded the psychedelic country-rock band New Riders of the Purple Sage, playing pedal-steel guitar on the group's debut album of 1971. He also played pedal-steel on "Teach Your Children," from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's 1970's album Déjà Vu. Source.

Living communally at 710 Ashby Street, Garcia and the band were raided and arrested by eight narcotics agents on October 2, 1967, an event written about in the first issue of the Rolling Stone. In 1989, Garcia told RS, "It's a joke. Greed and the desire to take drugs are two separate things. If you want to separate the two, the thing you do is make drugs legal. Accept the reality that people do want to change their consciousness, and make an effort to make safer, healthier drugs."

Succumbing to cocaine and heroin while touring with The Dead, Garcia died of a heart attack while in a drug treatment center. Bob Dylan and Bill Walton were among the celebrities at his funeral; part of his ashes were sprinkled into the Ganges River in India and the other part in the San Francisco Bay. Now his ethereal guitar and gentle vocals are even more poignant. As he sang in "Ripple":

If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung
Would you hear my voice come through the music
Would you hold it near as it were your own?

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