Jerome John Garcia (Aug 1, 1942 - Aug 9, 1995) was the lead guitarist and vocalist for The Grateful Dead, an improvisational rock band based in the San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA. He also maintained several solo projects and collaborations including The Jerry Garcia Band and acoustic projects with mandolinist David Grisman.

He came from a musical family and gained an interest in the guitar at a young age, despite having lost part of his right hand to a wood-chopping accident as a child. He started out his career playing old-time music and bluegrass in the late 1950s and early 1960s in Palo Alto, where he first met up with Ron "Pigpen" McKernan. With Pigpen, he formed the Warlocks in 1965, along with guitarist and singer Bob Weir, bassist Phil Lesh, and drummer Bill Kreutzmann. They changed their name to The Grateful Dead (as another band were called "Warlocks") and got their first big gig as the house band for Ken Kesey's acid tests. From this, they became a symbol of the culture of the 1960's. Jerry was even nicknamed "Captain Trips". The Dead became the centerpiece of hippie culture, famously situated in the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco.

Garcia's early musical influences often colored the music of the Dead, with blues, old-time music, bluegrass, country music, and even gospel often taking up a significant fraction of their live concerts. Garcia's solo work also reflected this, notably his collaborations with David Grisman. But Garcia and the dead also embraced the adventurism of 60's psychedelia and avant garde jazz along with straightforward rock and roll, creating a unique style (and fanbase) that were praised and panned with equal ferocity by different critics. In addition to his music, Garcia also did some visual arts work over the years, mostly abstract and impressionist in nature, and even dabbled in digital art towards the end of his life. In the 1990's, Garcia came out with a line of popular fashion neckties based on this work under the label J. Garcia.

Jerry and The Dead made brilliant music, but the culture of the times and the hectic schedule of touring took its toll on several band members and even on the fans. Pigpen died in 1973 from alcohol problems. Later, keyboardist Brent Mydland died of an overdose just a week after the end of their summer tour in 1990. Garcia spent much of his life addicted to heroin, and developed several health problems later in life related to his weight coupled with the stress of a rigorous touring schedule. This lifestyle caught up with him in 1985/6 when he was hospitalized for a combination of drug use complications, coupled with diabetes and morbid obesity. It happened again in 1992, when he slipped into a coma and nearly died.

After this, he managed to get his life back on track, and he cleaned up both his drug and lifestyle habits for awhile. But in 1995, Jerry apparently had a relapse to his drug addiction. He checked himself into a Bay area residential rehab clinic in August. While there, he had a heart attack in his sleep, and died in the early morning of August 9. The Grateful Dead officially disbanded shortly afterwards. His ashes were divided and scattered both in San Francisco and in the Ganges River in India. He was survived by his wife Deborah Koons, and four children from previous relationships. All surviving members of the Dead have moved on to other projects, but reunited first as The Other Ones and now tour under the shortened name The Dead.

There are many discographies and lyrics sites of the Dead and Garcia on the net, most notably the Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics site at http://arts.ucsc.edu/gdead/agdl/ so I make only a few suggestions of some notable work here.

  • Dead: Two From the Vault (live)
  • Dead: Workingman's Dead
  • Dead: Europe '72 (live)
  • Dead: Without a Net (live)
  • Dead: any of the many Dick's Picks CDs
  • Jerry Garcia: Garcia (the solo album)
  • The Jerry Garcia Band (live 1991)
  • Garcia-Grisman: Not For Kids Only (for fun)
  • Garcia-Grisman: Old and In The Way
  • Grateful Dawg (the documentary film)

The Grateful Dead also allowed taping of their shows, sometimes direct from the soundboard. It should also be relatively easy to find more live material than I've listed here, which is where Garcia and the Dead often shined brightest.

quote from James Jerome Garcia (regarding his time in a Coma in 1986):

"My main experience was one of furious activity and tremendous struggle in a sort of futuristic, space-ship vehicle with insectoid presences. After I came out of my coma, I had this image of myself as these little hunks of protoplasm that were stuck together kind of like stamps with perforations between them that you could snap off.

They were run through with neoprene tubing, and there were these insects that looked like cockroaches which were like message-units that were kind of like my bloodstream. That was my image of my physical self and this particular feeling lasted a long time. It was really strange."


Another great Jerry Quote:
Deadheads are kinda like people who like licorice. Not everybody likes licorice, but people who like licorice, *really* like licorice!
Strange Jerry facts:
He lost the top half of his right middle finger in an accident when he was a young boy. Apprently it was cut off.

He watched his own father drownd when he was about 5 years old.

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