Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Rock Radio remembers Jerry

From the Rock Radio:

Flashback: Jerry Garcia dies

It was 10 years ago, on August 9th, 1995, that Grateful Dead singer-guitarist Jerry Garcia died at age 53. At the time, Garcia was at the Serenity Knolls drug-treatment center in Forest Knolls, California, where he was trying once again to get on top of his chemical dependencies.Perhaps more than any other member of the Dead, Garcia was the focal point, although he never sought that role, nor did he wear the title easily. To him, it was a band and a family, and he was a member, which is what he always wanted.Garcia's death had a profound impact on many people. His fans, collectively known as "Dead Heads," mourned his loss, while also realizing that so long as the music existed, he was never really that far away. His bandmates took a while to sort through things before announcing that they could not go on without Garcia. On December 6th, 1995, they released this statement, which said it all: "After four months of heartfelt consideration, the remaining members of the band met yesterday and came to the conclusion that the 'long strange trip' of the uniquely wonderful beast known as the Grateful Dead is over."Garcia's death also had commercial reverberations. For many years, the Grateful Dead had been one of the biggest touring acts in North America, and promoters and concert venues always knew they'd make money when the Dead came to town. While the surviving members of the band went on to their own projects, none of them has been able to draw the massive audience that the Grateful Dead always produced.Grateful Dead vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux told, "(Garcia's) philosophy was so woven into his music that I don't think they can be separated. He had more capacity to communicate "high" things than anyone I have ever known, both in music and when he spoke. I was always amazed at how naturally he did this, and at the unassuming way he carried himself given the adoration of so many...I believe he gave the world a 'view' of music and life that lifts people out of the ordinary into the extraordinary, from the predictable to the unpredictable, from the expected to the unexpected, and most of all - a hunger and appreciation for it that never goes away. He did all this with a guitar and wonderfully scraggly voice. Amazing."

One of Garcia's oldest and dearest friends was Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. His online journal at the official Website includes this recent update: "Ten years since old Jer kicked the bucket? Seems more like fifty. Nothing about his passing seems like 'only yesterday,' rather as long ago and faraway as my childhood. From the sublime to the vicious, everything that could be said has been said and said again. Yet, the essential mystery of who Jerry Garcia was remains. What can be said with fair assurance is that he was a source, an original way of seeing the world that agreed with others in a few broad and important outlines, but which in just as many other dimensions confounded all expectations...Few would disagree that a key part of him remained isolated, unknown and unknowable. His art is the closest thing to an available roadmap of his singularities, amorphous clues, and clues only, to the nature of his true affections."

As well as being the 10th anniversary of Garcia's passing, it's also the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Grateful Dead. Going back to last year, there's been rumor and talk about the survivors doing something to note the milestone, whether a tour, a festival, a one-off performance, or some other kind of gathering. However, nothing's been announced yet, and it's not entirely possible that they'll let 2005 slip away and return to action on a collective basis next year. In the meantime, singer-guitarist Bob Weir continues to tour with his band RatDog; bassist Phil Lesh has his Phil Lesh & Friends band; and percussionist Mickey Hart has worked with a number of other musicians, his latest project being the band Hydra with members of the group Particle. Drummer Bill Kreutzmann continues to play, but on a much smaller scale, and he hasn't done any major tours without his old friends.


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