THE PHONE RANG A LITTLE AFTER DAWN this morning. Fred, an English Deadhead i hadn’t seen in eight years, was calling to convey the Brits’ condolences to the Yanks. I told him the memorial in Golden Gate Park had been beautiful, but once Bob Weir started weeping in mid-eulogy, the truth was inescapable.
In England, Fred said, they’d gathered for their regularly scheduled monthly Deadfest. They’d played the newly-arrived tapes of Garcia’s last show with the Dead, at Chicago’s Soldier Field on July 9th. They’d shared their memories. And then they’d played “Ripple,” Garcia’s voice sweet and strong:
You who choose to lead must follow
But if you fall, you fall alone
If you should stand, then who’s to guide you?
If I knew the way, I would take you home.
WHATEVER YOU SAY ABOUT JERRY GARCIA — and the next few months are sure to bring Rashomon-like tales of love, brilliance, generosity, and self—destruction—he wasn’t interested in following anyone, and he wasn’t about to be anybody’s leader. Not the Grateful Dead’s, and not the Deadheads’. There was a big crazy universe out there and he was too busy checking it out.
True, he could convince you in about six notes that jumping off this musical cliff with him and the guys was the best possible thing you could do. True, a few hours with him and the guys could leave you questioning the entire course of your life to that point and revising it drastically. But you had to figure it out for yourself; nobody could do it for you. And if Jerry Garcia couldn’t stop his adoring audience from making him an icon in abstentia, he made it clear that he was nobody’s guru.
”I know better, you know?” he laughed when we did an interview in 1987. “You know yourself for the asshole that you are; .you know yourself for the person who makes mistakes and who’s capable of being really stupid and doing stupid things. I don’t know who you’d have to be to believe that kind of stuff about yourself, to believe that you were somehow special. If I start believing that kind of stuff, everybody’s going to just turn around and walk away from me. Nobody would let me get away with it, not for a minute. That’s the strength of having a group.
“For me, it’s easier to believe in a group than it is a person. Certainly one of the things that makes the Grateful Dead interesting, from my point of view, is that it’s a group of people. The dynamics of the group is the part that I trust.”
Garcia’s death on August 8th was surely the worst blow the group has sustained in its 30—year history, and the Dead’s future—to say nothing of the future of the Deadheads—remains an open question. But, as Garcia said in 1987, ”Remember who we are? We are, in reality, a group of misfits. crazy people, who have voluntarily come together to work this stuff out and do the best we can and try to be as fair as we possibly can with each other. And just struggle through life.”
Annabelle Garcia drew wild applause from the assembled Golden Gate Park mourners when she said, ”If the Grateful Dead did anything, we gave you the power. You take it home and do something with it. We didn’t do this for nothing.”
But when, carried away by the emotion of the moment, he added that, as we move through life’s trials, we should ask ourselves”What would Jerry do?”, the guy next tome muttered, ”Yeah, and do the opposite!”
No point turning the man into a role model now that he’s not here to defend himself.
“THERE’S NO WAY TO MEASURE HIS greatness or magnitude as a person or as a player. I don’t think any eulogizing will do him justice. He was that great, much more than a superb musician with an uncanny ear and dexterity. He is the very spirit personified of whatever is muddy river contrary at its core and screams up into the spheres. He really had no equal. To me, he wasn’t only a musician and friend; he was more like a big brother who taught and showed me more than he’ll ever know. There’s a lot of spaces and., advances between the Carter family, Buddy Holly, and, say, Ornette Coleman, a lot of universes; but he filled them all without being a member of any schooI His playing was moody, awesome, sophisticated, hypnotic, and subtle. There‘s no way to convey the loss. It just digs down really deep.”
— Bob Dylan
“I AM DEEPLY SADDENED TO HEAR THAT MY GOOD FRIEND OF THREE decades, Jerry Garcia, has passed from this earth. The world has lost a special human being, and I join his family, his many friends, and his millions of fans around the world in mourning this tragic loss.Being guitarists and being apart of the San Francisco music scene together, ferry and I shared a special bond, He was a profound talent. both as a musician and as an artist, and he cannot be replaced. I take solace in the thought that his spirit has gone to join the likes of Bill Graham, Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye, Miles Davis, and other greats who have left us much too soon. My sincere condolences and prayers go out to Jerry’s family.”
— Carlos Santana
“WE’RE SAD AND CONFUSED. JERRY FILLED THE WORLD WITH positive energy. Our hearts go out to his family and friends.He will be missed terribly.”
— Troy Anastasia, Jonathan Fishman, Mike Gordonand Page McConnell of Phish
“SOMEBODY ONCE WROTE, ‘THE GRATEFUL DEAD ARE IMMORTAL, BUT THESE men who play in the hand are not.’ That’s exactly right, and that’s the way we feel. It takes the responsibility chief our hands, Which is comfortable. It’s scary if you feel like you’ re responsible for it — that’s a lot of energy in be responsible far. I’ve had to pay those dues in the psychedelic world.”
— Jerry Garcia to Blair Jackson and David Gans, BAM, August 23 1981
HAIKU FOR JERRY ON THE DAY OF HIS Demise.
The fat man rocks out / Hinges fall off heaven’s door /
”Come on in,”
CAN’T REALLY BE SAD, BECAUSE I DON’T THINK THAT’S WHAT IT’S bout. 1 can miss it, and I will miss it. But I think part of living is dying. I think out of everything, that’s what the Grateful Dead’s music was—to celebrate life. Dying is just an inevitability. so I would imagine Jerry would want everyone not to really become depressed