Jerome John “Jerry” Garcia was born on August 1st, 1942. He grew up, lost part of a finger, learned to play banjo and guitar, founded the Grateful Dead (né The Warlocks), wrote some of the most beautiful anthems in the annals of rock music, and led a movement (and defined a lifestyle) that still persists today.
Along the way he dramatically altered thousands upon thousands of lives, inspired even more, and was at the crux of countless experiences as a flood of music fanatics fell on and off of a seemingly endless Dead tour over the years. When he died on August 9th, 1995 the world stopped for many, many people, and when the planet begrudgingly started spinning again lots of us found it lacking.
And so the time between Jerry’s birth on August 1st and his death on August 9th is considered The Days Between (or so the SiriusXM Grateful Dead channel would have us believe), but skull & roses by any other name are just as sad. The bottom line is this is the time to remember and celebrate the life, love, and music of the Grand Marshall of Jam, Jerry Garcia.
I’m no massive Deadhead by any stretch of the imagination, though I feel very, very fortunate (blessed even) that I got to see the man play eight times, six shows with the Grateful Dead and twice with his own Jerry Garcia Band. While I never fully got on the train those shows seriously changed my musical habits, and like so many my life was significantly heightened, improved, and decorated by my exposure to the man.
On August 8th, 2015 I went to the Carleton Tavern nice and early to be a part of Ottawa’s own little celebration of Jerry Garcia. I wanted to get a table near the front where friends old and new could join me for a drink and a laugh or two. On stage was a parade of players paying tribute to the Grateful Dead: Caution Jam, Mark T Band, Dave Muir and I believe a few others (No Bud’s For Bob must have been playing too). The music was great but like many shows in this genre the crowd was the thing.
For me it was an evening of This Is Your (Jammy) Life, as one person after another from my concert past walked through the door. Some I had seen as recently as the week before, others I hadn’t seen in twenty years. There were a lot of hugs and hippie-handshakes and more love than you could shake a stick at, and quite a few beers as well. At any time of the evening one could glance around the room and see unbridled bliss everywhere. It was a beautiful thing and a reminder of how great a scene we have in Ottawa.
And all of that joy sprang from a life that had been extinguished two decades before. Amazingly the scene Jerry helped to form has only grown in that time. What an astounding influence and power that man had.
Rest In Peace Jerry Garcia. You will be remembered and celebrated as long as humans occupy the planet, just as you will surely be emanating positive vibes for millennia beyond that. Such was the power of your soul.