Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Jerry Garcia During the Days Between
Jerry was born on August 1, 1942, and died on August 9, 1995, and during his short 53 years on this earth, blessed us all with his completely unique contributions of music, art, creativity, and overwhelming kindness. Because of this, we celebrate The Days Between, honoring his life and legacy.
Garcia lived a life that touched millions of people, and that legacy did not end after his death. While he is most well known for co-founding the Grateful Dead, he was a person who contributed so much more to the world, and lived a robust and generous life.
Here are some lesser known facts about Jerry’s life:
1. JERRY GARCIA WAS DESTINED TO BE A MUSICIAN
He was born into a family that valued music and culture. He took piano lessons from a young age, encouraged by his father, a retired professional musician, and his mother who was also a piano player. He was named after esteemed Broadway composer, Jerome Kern, who is known for the musical “Show Boat”, the song “The Way You Look Tonight,” and over 700 other songs and compositions.
2. JERRY MIGHT HAVE BECOME AN ARTIST, INSTEAD OF A MUSICIAN
Jerry was drawn to both music and art, becoming proficient at both at a young age. In 1961, he was in a major car accident and narrowly survived. He referred to this accident as a “slingshot for the rest of [his] life.” This informed his decision to choose the guitar over his hobby of painting and drawing. He was drawn to the collaborative interaction and creative energy of playing music with others. He never quite forgot his love of art though, and created works of art in his free time, eventually publishing a book called “J. Garcia: Paintings, Drawings, and Sketches,” and creating a line of neckties.
3. JERRY GARCIA ALSO PLAYED THE BANJO
Jerry Garcia's first love was country music, introduced to him by his grandmother at a very young age. “My grandmother was a big Grand Ole Opry fan,” he once said. “Yeah, I grew up in San Francisco listening to the Opry every Saturday night on the radio without knowing what I was hearing. In fact, my first 45 was a Hank Williams record, a song called ‘The Love Bug Itch.’ It was a really stupid song, but, hey, it was Hank Williams.” From these roots, Garcia brought country and bluegrass influences into all of the music he created in his career, even playing with many of the renowned bluegrass pickers of his day, including Tony Rice and David Grisman.
PHOTO: JERALD MELROSE
4. JERRY (AND THE DEAD) PLAYED FOR MORE PEOPLE THAN ANY BAND IN HISTORY
Jerry Garcia didn't just play in THE band… he played with over 25 different groups of musicians and released more than 30 albums in his career. Jerry and the Dead played before more people and played more years than any other music combo in history but stayed mostly out of the mainstream. The band had only 1 Top Ten hit, "Touch of Grey".
5. JERRY GARCIA, THEME SONG COMPOSER
Jerry was asked to compose the theme music for the 1985 revival of The Twilight Zone. The theme song was then performed and recorded by the Grateful Dead and Merl Saunders.
6. ICE CREAM, BUGS, AND ASTEROIDS
Jerry Garcia has many things named after him, including the first celebrity Ben & Jerry’s flavor (Cherry Garcia), a cockroach (Cryptocercus Garciai), and an asteroid (discovered just 3 months after his passing in 1995).
7. JERRY GARCIA, ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST
Jerry was passionate about preserving our planet, and took part in environmental activism efforts. Jerry worked on an album with Merl Saunders called “Blues from the Rainforest” to raise awareness about the health of the rainforests. On September 13, 1988, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, and Mickey Hart joined a panel speaking at the United Nations to alert the world about the dangers of the diminishing rainforests. When asked about why the Grateful Dead was getting involved, Jerry replied, “It seems pathetic that it has to be us, with all the other citizens of the planet, and all the other resources out there, but since no one else is doing anything about it, we don’t really have any choice."
Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir at the UN press conference for the Rainforest/ Daniel Root, Retna
Jerry Garcia touched the lives of many…
“He was smart and very funny and had an awful lot of depth and compassion and soulfulness. If you could pick one guy who was the essence of all the best things about the ‘60s and what happened with the hippie subculture, he would be the best example of that spirit.”
- David Grisman,
"There is no one who has ever created music with the combination of intelligence, intuition, depth, creativity, and humor that Jerry Garcia has. His work and life will continue to be a limitless source of inspiration for all of us."
- Neal Casal,
Guitarist, singer, songwriter and photographer
“Jerry Garcia is without question one of the most beloved human beings of all time. We love this man. Not from a distance but as intimately as anyone can be loved --- his soul and ours are forever intertwined."
- Johnny Dwork,
Grateful Dead Scholar
"A very gentle and unassuming man who brought so much joy and love into people's lives through music. I can't think of a more profound and beautiful accomplishment at the end of a lifetime."
- Trey Anastasio, Phish
"I attended a Jerry Garcia Band show in Cleveland, Ohio in the early 80's (Playhouse Square, I think). I remember each song seeming like a full concert. Jerry Garcia is talking guitar and vocal approach together painted images that let me experience the music on both personal and what I believe to be a universal level. Jerry and the band were playing and singing, but it also seemed like they were leading the songs play them (the musicians), as well – creating a kind of "musical sincerity." That "letting the song play you" impression has since plated a part in the way I try to apply myself to a tune - be it an original, or someone else's. I will always hold heart-filled gratitude for that evening, and for Mr. Garcia."
- John Bell, Widespread Panic
"I see him in my dreams all the time. I hear him when I'm on stage. I would say I can't talk to him, but I can. I don't miss him. He's here. He's with me."
- Bob Weir,
Cofounder and guitarist of The Grateful Dead
“Jerry was the best musician I ever played with. He was 100 percent music. Every pore, every bit of his body, every molecule, was music, whether he liked it or not... I always felt that I could hear in his music him talking about things at a much deeper level than what appeared on the surface. There aren’t many musicians who have that gift – to be really profound.”
- Bill Kreutzmann,
Cofounder and drummer of The Grateful Dead
“There’s no way to measure his greatness or magnitude as a person or as a player. He really had no equal. His playing was moody, awesome, sophisticated, hypnotic, and subtle. There’s no way to convey the loss.”
- Bob Dylan,
“He has become a piece of whatever we mean by infinity, just as we knew he was when he was here: a constant reminder that it’s possible to invent your own kind of life and live it to the fullest.”
- Sandy Rothman,
Bluegrass multi-instrumentalist and record producer, Friend of Jerry Garcia
“There is not a sentence in the world that could respectfully do justice to the life and music of Jerry Garcia.”
- Branford Marsalis,
Saxophonist, composer, and bandleader