I originally wrote this article the night after the day Jerry died, having just enough time to get my thoughts together about the situation. This is not the biography, but a reflection of how Jerry's death changed my life. Now, almost three years later, I decided to update the original article to reflect on what's happened since and give a word of thanks to everyone who pitched in to help the counterculture through this crisis. I couldn't have done this by myself. Luckily, I got a lot of help.
The closest I came to experiencing the Grateful Dead was at the Wake for Chocolate George that I accidentally stumbled onto and it was probably the most important event in my life because it was the first time I discovered that there were other people like me. As fate would have it, that's the only glimpse I got of the Grateful Dead in person. The Grateful Dead only came to Dallas three times and since I was involved with other shows at the time, I was unable to attend. Nobody I knew in Dallas showed much interest in the Grateful Dead, their music didn't get much airplay and I didn't think their first album was that great, which was the only Grateful Dead album I had.
Although I had a Grateful Dead poster up in my room, that was about the extent of my involvement with the Grateful Dead until I started researching our history after I had moved from Dallas back to the west coast. No matter which book I read about the Haight-Ashbury and the counterculture, the subject of the Grateful Dead kept coming up. So I started reading the books about them. They played here several times, but I didn't know any Deadheads yet and I didn't go. This was before I started the web site and before I knew how to access rec.music.gdead.
I started the web site at the beginning of summer in 1995. By this time, I was reading rec.music.gdead. I posted a message about my site on August 5, and when Jerry died four days later, everything jammed up. That's when the bus came by and I got on, because this was a freaking emergency. There were Deadheads as young as 12 years old contacting my site. That solved my problem of not knowing any Deadheads right then and there.
It's amazing how a community can pull together in an emergency like they did. A Deadhead on the same server I'm on contacted my site and we ended up starting a mailing list as a support group for Deadheads. It's been going since November, 1995 and there are now about 60 of us. So that's how I've been involved in all of this since Jerry's death, but now I want to get back to the night of August 10, when Jerry's death had just happened and I was trying to figure out how to deal with it.
Jerry Garcia was born in San Francisco on 8-1-42 and left us on 8-9-95. I don't know how Jerry did it, but he managed to pull off something that nobody else did in the history of rock and roll. He helped make a freaking miracle happen. Keeping a rock and roll band going for 30 years is no easy task. Just the physical hassle of being on the road has done in many musicians much younger than Jerry. Somehow Jerry was able to keep everyone in the band happy and when tensions flared, he was able to resolve disputes. Somehow he was able to keep things together in spite of acid freakouts, police harassment, drug addiction problems, rowdy fans and money rip-off hassles, just to name a few. That in itself was a miracle, but there's more.
The music Jerry made was incredible. He was the pied piper of the counterculture. New sound systems had to be designed to handle the Grateful Dead's music because the usual club sound system of the era just wouldn't hack it. I think that it was Owsley who first noticed this, so he got the Dead some Altec Lansing A7 units and he replaced the high impedance microphones with professional low impedance microphones and even got the Dead a professional mixing console. To my knowledge, no band, including the Beatles, had ever used such equipment before. It was a vast improvement because now we can hear Jerry sing. It boggles the mind to think what might have happened if the Grateful Dead had never happened.
There was a pretty hostile Crossfire about Jerry's death on CNN, and nobody on that show pointed out all the ways that the Grateful Dead contributed to society. The Dead have donated millions of dollars to good causes around the world and to just about every city they ever played at. Someone on the Dead's staff had the job of finding out the needs of each city and sending donations where they were needed.
One last thing I think needs to be said here (and I think Jerry would want it to be said here) is not to look at Jerry's death as "the end of an era" and all that, and here's why. Back in the days when the Summer of Love went belly up and the Diggers had the Death of Hippie parade, people kept saying it was the end of an era. Well, they were wrong and we went on and had Woodstock. Then Altmount happened and again, people kept saying it was the end of an era. Well, they were also wrong about that and we went on and the Rainbow Gatherings happened. There will always be bohemians and there will always be a need for bohemians because without them, you would end up with a situation like nazi Germany.
Please don't get me wrong here. I don't mean to downplay Jerry's death in any way. We suffered a terrible loss when he died. What I am trying to say that we shouldn't call it quits just because Jerry died. We should continue to do what Jerry helped start. After all, isn't that exactly what he would want us to do?
The reason I bring all this up is I logged onto the newsgroup rec.music.gdead today and it wasn't a pretty picture. In fact, it was downright depressing. As one deadhead put it, "I read the news today, oh boy." I couldn't put it any better myself. Anyway, I've never seen so much negative energy on that newsgroup before the day Jerry died. There were non-druggies flaming drugies and drugies flaming non-drugies. Someone even accused Jerry of killing himself. Shit, how could it ever have come to this? I take Jerry's death seriously and it really hurts me when people kid around about it or exploit it. I felt like I was at a memorial service that was being picketed. It really burns me up that it has become so goddamn "politically incorrect" to be a pagan these days that we can't even have a memorial for the dead without a bunch of people trashing it. I just hope that all the flamers will stop and think for a moment about what's going to get posted on the newsgroup when they die. If there's anyone out there who can think of a way to restore a little peace and love to that newsgroup, I sure hope you will try.
Well, Jerry, I'm sorry that people showed so little respect for your death, or exploited it to further their right-wing agenda. In spite of all that, you still have a family down here who will always love you, and tell Pigpen we miss him too.
Written in anger and sadness on 8-10-95 (the day after Jerry died)
Second thoughts on all of all this: Since this was written, I have read many of the newspaper stories on Jerry's death and I couldn't find a single unkind word spoken about him, but some Deadheads have reported unfair stories or editorials and even went so far as to call for a boycott of some newspapers. The unkind words I experienced mainly happened on the Crossfire show and some Internet postings, which were probably posted by immature people who didn't realize how unfair they were being to Jerry and the rest of us. Even though there was some bad stuff said, when you consider the big picture, I think Jerry is getting the best (and longest) memorial a Hippie ever had! Good job everyone. I've never experienced anything like this before in my entire life. (8-18-95)
I feel like a part of me has died today - yet so many people
Thank you Jerry for being in my life, I will love and cherish all of the music and joy you brought to me and the rest of the world.
I still cant believe it that Chicago was the last time I would see Jerry,
Jerry you were and will always be the king and you will always be alive in my mind. I will miss you forever, we all will. I hope everyone attends the vigils near them I know I wouldn't miss the one I am attending tonight.
Rest In Peace Jerry | | | /|\ / | \ / | \
SOMEONE TELL ME IT ISN'T SO, BUT SOMEONE TOLD ME THAT THEY HEARD ON THE RADIO THAT JERRY GARCIA WAS FOUND DEAD IN HIS MARIN, CA HOME.
Please tell me this isn't true.
God help us all.
Words can't express the sorrow I feel in my heart. Some of my happiest moments were in his presence. I love you Jerry!
Worst birthday ever. What did I do after thinking over and over, "He's Gone?" Went to Magic Mtn. & went on "Batman" 3 times thinking of Jerry (hoping that he had a smooth & quick passage from dreamland to tomorrow never knows). I'm glad I had the good sense to convince all of my good friends to go to at least one show (although some of them now wish they hadn't since now they know what they'll miss). I've been listening to the small amt. of tapes I've received from you all, and just want you to know that I hope to see you at the next show.
I want my future kids (?) to know the peace and love of a Dead show.
Thanks for reading my lines. :-)
I woke up to a beautiful morning here in Yoshino mountains in a rural, forgotten area of Japan. I was half asleep, enjoying the fact that I had nothing to do but cherish a beautiful day.
And then my aunt called. From America. And I heard. It was so weird to be so far away from it all, knowing all the vigils that would be going on tonight, that I would have been at the Bob Weir show tonight in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire had I been home tonight.
But somehow, as the morning grogginess leaves, I realize that an important part of Jerry's music was the way it brought people together, however far apart they were.
I wish I was in the US right now, but a bunch of us ex-pats here will get together tonight and say good-bye from this corner of the world to someone who touched every corner of the world...
I had the good fortune to spend time alone with Jerry while he was on vacation scuba diving in Hawaii. He once remarked that he liked being here because it was the only time he could be alone. He complained that playing the role of Jerry Garcia never allowed him much peace or time alone.
Think of the weight he carried. Think of all the people who relied so heavily upon him, financially, musically, spiritually. Every time I left a Dead concert exhausted and drained I wondered how he could conjure up such energy night after night.
I think his soul needed a rest. Let's thank him for giving so much, and let him go...
Editor's. Note: The following posting really touched my heart. It concerns the perpetrators of the riots and gate crashing that occurred in several cities at the Dead's last concerts and resulted in two deaths and the cancellation of one night's show. I don't think the Dead had experienced anything this bad since Altmount, where they were scheduled to play but couldn't out of the respect for the people killed there. My worry is there have been a number of guilt trips laid down about Jerry's death and I hope this isn't another one, but it sounds sincere to me. I do feel that blaming Jerry's death on any one factor is wrong. There were many things that went wrong at the wrong time that did Jerry in, and the riots were just one of them. I also totally disagree with the belief that Jerry killed himself. He wanted to be alive as much as any one of you want to, but he got caught up in a bad situation and his body couldn't handle it. What happened to Jerry could happen to any one of us and in fact is guaranteed to happen sooner or later. Anyway, here's what one Deadhead had to say about the rioters...
As the searing pain of my grief is starting to subside somewhat, to be replaced by the dull ache of deep sadness...I can't help but to keep wondering about our less fortunate Deadhead brethren.
There are those of us out there (referred to by some as tour scum) who are going to have a real hard time with Jerry's passing. Folks who have never had any other life except go on tour and get ready for the next tour. These folks are going to have a hard time figuring out what to do with the rest of their lives.
I don't mean this to sound sanctimonious and I don't really have any solutions for them. I don't really know if there is anything the rest of us can do to help these poor unfortunate lost Deadheads. I just know I keep thinking about them and about how hard this must be for them.
And I just hope if any us is put in any sort of position to help our fellow Deadhead out of a hard time....Well, just be kind and be the sort of person that Jerry was.
Just some ramblin' thoughts.
Jerry, I miss you more than words can tell.
Jerry: (in heaven) Good lord, Pigpen! I'm getting tired of reading all these news stories about the Grateful Dead and my death. When's it all going to end? First, they say they're not going to tour and now they say they are going to tour. What next?
Pigpen: They toured but it was a flop because not enough Deadheads showed up to break even.
Thanks to all who helped ease the congestion on the Internet when it became overloaded from everyone trying to find news about Jerry's death. So many memorial sites sprung up that it took the load off the main Grateful Dead sites and servers were no longer crashing by noon the day Jerry died. The whole Internet seems to be doing a cosmic dance in honor of Jerry. I love it. It's almost as if...could it be that Jerry's death is causing a rebirth of the counterculture...
If your favorite site isn't on here, please let me know so I can include it. Also if you find a link that doesn't work, please let me know so I can fix it. Thanks
The newsgroup rec.music.gdead has tons of news stories about Jerry posted to it from all over the country. Traffic has really picked up on that newsgroup since Jerry's Death. The day after he died, there were about 2000 postings. The last time I logged on (8-17-95), there were 5735 postings. Now it seems to be back to about what it was before Jerry died.
Compuserve also has News stories on Jerry, but you have to be quick about catching them. The last time I checked their AP wire, all the stories on Jerry had been removed.
I just got the special Jerry Garcia Goes Belly Up edition of People Magazine. I don't have any idea how they did it, but they managed to get this issue out on the street before poor old Jerry's body was even cold. Actually, they weren't so goush to call it that, but some of the things people said about Jerry in that article seem pretty goush to me. I can't believe that Country Joe McDonold would stoop so low to say that Jerry "killed himself." That is not only simplistic, but is also unfair to Jerry, his family and his friends. I think this is a symptom of the "health fascism" that the 80's and 90's have become famous for, and it's a shame to see them have a "field day" over Jerry's death. Now I feel sorry I bought it. Forgive me Jerry, you're a pagan, I'm a pagan and the "health fascists" can burn in hell fire. Here's one last posting which best expresses my feelings about all this:
1) I have been a professional musician a quarter-century (in fact, did some studio work for a never-completed Pigpen solo album with Jerry and Bob; a track from those sessions called "Lovin' Man" has been floating around for many years), caught the band over the years, liked it, never got on the bus. My son, who is 23, did get on. I wish that people who complain about Deadheads and their habits could feel the love that I have felt emanating from the Family-at-large, especially now, but to a large extent always. My son's mother and I have long been divorced, and no way could he have been considered to have had a happy childhood. I am very glad that the community was there for my son, since his mother and I could not give him what he (and any child) would need.
2) I'm upset by all the crap that's been flying around about how horrible it was that Jerry's death had drugs in the picture. Maybe the people doing the most vocal complaining are the ones who would go to the funeral of a loved one and try to trash his/her memory. Don't forget, for so many Jerry was like a family member--hell, far *more* than a family member--and it's just mean-spirited to go all Puritan-WarOnDrugs righteous right now (or any time, for that matter).
Jerry was an artist, and for whatever reason artists have for a long time often been substance abusers. It seems to go with the territory; sensitive/creative people may feel pain in themselves and in others more deeply, or need to expand their boundaries to get in touch with the dark side. I don't know; but I wonder if these righteous assholes complaining about Jerry would no longer look at paintings by Toulouse-Lautrec or Van Gogh, for example, both of whom were very frequently whacked out of their minds on absinthe. Then again, it's a very old story to vilify an artist, in life and in death. And that's gotta hurt, people. Thanks for letting me ramble. And RIP Jerry.
last update: 7-10-98