Sunday, July 29, 2007
Wednesday, August 1, marks what would have been Jerry Garcia's 65th birthday. We all know him as the lead vocalist and guitarist for the infamous group the Grateful Dead, (1965-1995), and for such famous songs as "Truckin," "Box of Rain," "Friend of the Devil," and countless others. I have to say, until I looked him up I never realized he had such as painful and traumatic life, which included witnessing his own father's drowning as a child during a camping trip, losing one of his fingers, seeing one of his best friends die in a car accident, and being in and out of rehab and fighting serious drug addiction most of his adult life, to the point where he was in a diabetic coma in 1986 and nearly didn't recover.
But on a happier note, (thankfully, there are many), his music was brilliant on many levels. He and the band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, and he was ranked by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the top 100 guitarists of all time. He was famous for never playing a song the same way twice, and from what I've seen in clips of the band over the years, this is certainly true. When asked to describe his approach to soloing, Garcia commented: "It keeps on changing. I still basically revolve around the melody and the way it’s broken up into phrases as I perceive them. With most solos, I tend to play something that phrases the way the melody does; my phrases may be more dense or have different value, but they’ll occur in the same places in the song."
I was never a "Dead Head," and even though I used to joke I would be one of those groupies who followed the Dead everywhere I went, of course, I didn't. I had my life, and my obligations. The one and only time I did see them play was at the McNichols area in Denver in the early 1980's, and I will never forget it. The band played for hours, and at one point I remember the entire audience dancing in circles around the coliseum. I danced for an hour with one guy, and another hour which a group of women, and then around in circles by myself,and on and on this way until it finally wound down. None of the people I danced with that night us said a word to each other, and we didn't have to. This, in my mind, is the true meaning of a musical legacy. So, happy birthday Jerry. Enjoy a double scoop of Cherry Garcia with extra whipped cream in that great ampitheatre in the sky--it's on me.
"Sometimes the light's all shining on me
Other times I can barely see
Lately it occurs to me what a long strange trip it's been..."