Jerry Garcia, Grateful Dead Founder, Dies

Jerry Garcia, Grateful Dead Founder, Dies

Jerry Garcia, Grateful Dead Founder, Dies

Grateful Dead founder Jerry Garcia, the enduring musical guru for legions of loyal fans over four decades, died early Wednesday morning, just every week after his 53rd birthday.

Garcia died of a clear attack while under treatment at a drug rehabilitation facility in Novato, Calif., where he was reportedly attempting to finish a recurring heroin habit. His body was found in his room by a counselor at the Serenity Knolls drug rehabilitation center at 4:23 a.m. Attempts to revive him failed.

Grateful Dead spokesman Dennis McNally said the surviving band members were “all in shock.” They declined to offer interviews.

“We loved the person and he’s gone,” McNally said. “The one thing I’m clinging on to is that when he went into the power, he didn’t tell any folks. He just wanted to regain his health. He went out eager to get healthy and making a commitment to his art. That’s the way I’m getting to remember him.”

Contemporary musicians joined fans, known worldwide as “Deadheads,” in mourning the serene singer and guitarist.

“There are no thanks to measuring his greatness or magnitude as an individual or as a player,” said singer-songwriter Dylan, who has toured with the Grateful Dead. “He really had no equal. His playing was moody, awesome, sophisticated, hypnotic, and subtle. There are no thanks to conveying the loss.”

Garcia’s death leaves uncertain the longer term of the foremost direct musical and cultural link to San Francisco’s 1960s hippie heyday. Through the intervening years and sweeping social upheavals, the Dead and its following not only have survived but flourished.

That phenomenon was evident within the thousands of tie-dye-clad fans--youths and adults--who followed the band from show to point out across the country, reveling during a communal spirit and therefore the band’s lithe, long improvisational mixture of rock, blues, country, and folk. To those that weren't fans, the attraction of a Grateful Dead show was a mystery. But to those that were, it had been a near-religious event.

A live Grateful Dead album, titled “Hundred Year Hall” and recorded last year in Germany, had been tentatively scheduled for release in October, and therefore the group had been performing on its first album of latest studio recordings since 1989. The status of both projects is now uncertain.

Many fans and associates Wednesday said that they might not imagine the Dead continuing without Garcia, but McNally said that no decision about the band’s future would be made immediately. The group has survived other deaths--Ron (Pigpen) McKernan of disease in 1972; his replacement, Keith Godchaux, during a car crash shortly after leaving the band in 1980, and his successor, Brent Mydland, of a drug overdose in 1989.

The gray-bearded, Buddha-like Garcia had an extended history of health problems stemming from a mixture of drug use, cigarette smoking, diabetes, an inability to stay his weight in restraint, and therefore the stress of the grueling tour schedule of the Grateful Dead.

Year after year, Dead tours have ranked among the highest concert attractions within us. In 1994 the group grossed $52.4 million in concerts, ranking that trek because of the eighth biggest such tour within us. Through the primary half of 1995, grosses reached $29.3 million.

In 1986 Garcia nearly died after lapsing into a diabetes-related coma. He made attempts then to enhance his health, taking over scuba-diving and improving his diet, but his efforts were inconsistent. A 1991 tour was postponed after Garcia collapsed from exhaustion.

In a 1991 interview with the days, Garcia commented on the tolls of his fast-paced life, which was a marked contrast to his easygoing music and stage persona.

“I’m constantly handling my very own limits,” he said. “If I select to require it seriously, it’s the way an excessive amount of on every level. an excessive amount of responsibility, an excessive amount of work, and everything. [But] it happens that I really like it too. It’s still fun. As long as I still like it, I even have no intention of doing anything to form it stop. . . . If someone makes music illegal, they’ll need to drag me off the stage kicking and screaming.”

Garcia’s stay within the rehab center was in preparation for the band’s planned fall tour, which had been scheduled to start next month and was to incorporate shows Oct. 14 and 15 in Devore.

His final show with the Dead was July 9 at Chicago’s Soldier Field, concluding a spring tour that had been marred by several incidents involving fans, including a rock-throwing confrontation with police in Noblesville, Ind., and injuries to 100 Deadheads camping out before a concert in Wentzville, Mo. when a porch they were dancing on collapsed.

Those were unfortunate footnotes to Garcia and therefore the Dead’s legacy. Their huge following not only made the A cultural icon but put it in the middle of an unlikely financial empire during which its communal roots and values translated into capitalist success. additionally to concerts and recordings, the group features a thriving business marketing colorful T-shirts and other paraphernalia--and there's even a line of neckties supported Garcia’s abstract paintings, albeit ties were anathema to his casual wardrobe.

Born Aug. 1, 1942, in San Francisco as Jerome John Garcia, the son of a bandleader, he was active within the Bay Area folk and bluegrass scene of the first ‘60s and founded a rock group called the Warlocks in 1965.

The next year the group--at the time including guitarist Bob Weir, bassist Phil Lesh, keyboard player McKernan, and drummer Bill Kreutzmann--became the Grateful Dead and was established because the house band for the psychedelic, drug-fueled “Acid Test” parties, as chronicled in Tom Wolfe’s book “The Electric Kool-Aid appraisal .”

The group signed to Warner Bros. Records and released its first album in 1967. Perhaps the simplest albums were the early-'70s, country-flavored releases “Workingman’s Dead” and “American Beauty,” with Garcia and lyricist Robert Hunter crafting songs that tapped into the American frontier and underdog ethos.

But fans generally agree that no recordings ever captured the sensation of a concert, even the various concert recordings. Its live shows made the Dead a legend--as summed up within the oft-used, fan-coined slogan, “There’s nothing sort of a Grateful Dead concert.”

At the middle was always Garcia’s fluid guitar playing, weaving a tapestry as colorful because of the fans’ garb. The music at the shows, often held in festival-type settings, often devolved into unstructured jams that served as a sinewy soundtrack for a vivid tableau of free-form dancing fans.

Though albums became more sporadic after the ‘70s, one, “In the Dark” in 1987, spawned the band’s only Top 10 hit. The song, “Touch of Grey,” featured the Garcia-sung chorus proclaiming “I will survive.”

Garcia often toured together with his side project, the Jerry Garcia Band, helping Deadheads fill the time between Dead treks. Garcia also was active within the group’s Rex Foundation, a philanthropic organization that gave grants to a spread of cultural, social, and environmental efforts.

“The Grateful Dead and Jerry are the one band that has been about not just the music but the socialization of individuals, allowing people to assemble and escape the drudgery of lifestyle and knowledge joy, true joy,” said Gregg Perloff, president of the concert promotions firm Bill Graham Presents. The history of the corporate, founded in San Francisco by the late Bill Graham, was tied on to the Dead, producing virtually all the band’s shows, including annual New Year’s Eve concerts and 1978 dates at the foot of the good Pyramid in Egypt.

“What tons of individuals around the country realized today was that this [the Dead culture] wasn't about one segment of our society,” Perloff said. “Whether a 15-year-old student or a 45-year-old lawyer, there have been numerous people that would get out of their suits and ties and follow the Dead.”

And what becomes of the hard-core Deadheads now, assuming that Garcia’s death means the top of the Grateful Dead?

“I think they’re getting to need to get lives now,” said Toni Brown, publisher of Brooklyn-based Relix magazine, which is dedicated to the Grateful Dead and related music and cultural issues. “The band always felt that there was more to life than simply them, and other people are getting to need to face reality. it had been great to be ready to make the Grateful Dead your reality, but there’s more thereto than that.”

In 1991, though, Garcia spoke of plans to postpone that inevitability as long as possible, noting the longevity of the many of his blues, country and jazz heroes.

“I visited see [jazz violinist] Stephane Grapelli and he’s 83,” he said. “You see these guys and you say, ‘Goddamn right!’ If I can, then yeah, if I’m alive and moving, I’ll be playing.”

Garcia is survived by his third wife, Marin County filmmaker Deborah Koons, whom he married last year; and 4 daughters, Heather, 32, Annabelle, 25, Teresa, 21, and Keelin, 7.

Plans for personal funeral services or public memorial observances were incomplete.

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