A Rockapaedia Obituary
Band: The Grateful Dead
Jerry Garcia died aged fifty-three on 9th August 1995 from a heart attack in his room at a rehabilitation clinic at Forest Knolls, Marin County, California, U.S.A. just eight days after his 53rd birthday. He had long battled with drug addiction, overweightedness, sleep apnea, heavy smoking, and diabetes, all of which hastened his declining health.
Jerry Garcia's funeral was held on 12th August 1995 at St.Stephen's Episcopal Church in Belvedere, California, U.S.A. This was attended by his family plus the remaining Grateful Dead members, and their friends, including Bill Walton and Bob Dylan.
On 13th August approximately 25,000 people attended a municipally sanctioned public memorial at the Polo Fields of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.
Jerry Garcia's ancestors on his father's side were from Galicia in northwest Spain. His mother's ancestors were Irish and Swedish. Jerry was born in the Excelsior District of San Francisco, California, on August 1, 1942, to Jose Ramon "Joe" Garcia and Ruth Marie "Bobbie" Garcia, who was herself born in San Francisco.
Jerry Garcia was influenced by music at an early age, taking piano lessons for much of his childhood. His father was a retired professional musician and his mother enjoyed playing the piano. His father's extended family—who had emigrated from Spain in 1919, would often sing during reunions.
Jerry experienced several tragedies during his youth. At age four, while the family was vacationing in the Santa Cruz Mountains, two-thirds of Jerry's right middle finger was accidentally cut off. Jerry and his brother Tiff were chopping wood. Jerry steadied a piece of wood with his finger, but Tiff miscalculated and the axe severed most of Jerry's middle finger. After his mother wrapped his hand in a towel, Jerry's father drove him over 30 miles to the nearest hospital. A few weeks later, Jerry, who had not looked at his finger since the accident, was surprised to discover most of it missing when the bandage he was wearing came off during a bath. Jerry later confided that he often used it to his advantage in his youth, showing it off to other children in his neighborhood.
Less than a year after he lost most of his finger, his father died. Vacationing with his family near Arcata in Northern California in 1947, Jerry's father went fly fishing in the Trinity River, part of the Six Rivers National Forest. Not long after entering the river, Jerry's father slipped on a rock, lost his balance and was swept away by the river's rapids. He drowned before other fishermen could reach him. Although Jerry claimed he saw his father fall into the river, Dennis McNally, author of the book A Long Strange Trip: The Inside Story of the Grateful Dead, argues Jerry formed the memory after hearing others repeat the story. Blair Jackson, who wrote Garcia: An American Life, lends weight to McNally's claim. Jackson's evidence was that a local newspaper article describing Jose's death failed to mention Jerry was present when he died.
Jerry Garcia's personal life was unconventional. He met his first wife, Sara Ruppenthal Garcia, in 1963. She was working at the coffee house in the back of Kepler's Bookstore where Jerry, Hunter, and Nelson performed. They married in April 1963, and in December of that year their daughter Heather was born.
Sara and Jerry officially divorced after a long separation. While raising daughter Sunshine with Jerry, Carolyn Adams gave birth to Jerry's second and third daughters, Annabelle Walker Garcia and Theresa Adams "Trixie" Garcia .
During August 1970, Jerry's mother Ruth was involved in a car crash near Twin Peaks in San Francisco. Jerry, who was recording the album American Beauty at the time, often left the sessions to visit his mother with his brother Clifford. She died in September 1970.
In the midst of a March 1973 Grateful Dead engagement at the Nassau Coliseum near New York City, Jerry met Deborah Koons, an aspiring filmmaker from a wealthy Cincinnati, Ohio-based family who would much later marry him and become his widow. After a brief correspondence, he began his relationship with her in mid-1974; this gradually strained his relationship with Carolyn and culminated in Garcia leaving her for Koons in late 1975. The end of his relationship with Koons in 1977 precipitated a brief reconciliation with Carolyn, including the reestablishment of their household; however, she did not agree with Jerry's persistent use of narcotics and moved with the children to the Eugene, Oregon area in 1978. Jerry had an affair with Amy Moore (a Kentucky-born member of the extended "Grateful Dead family" and the mistress of Texas oil heir Roy Cullen) circa 1980–1981, and their brief liaison inspired the Garcia-Hunter song "Run for the Roses."
Carolyn and Jerry were married, largely as a result of mutual tax exigencies, on December 31, 1981. Despite the legal codification of their union, she remained in Oregon while Jerry continued to live near the Grateful Dead's offices in San Rafael, California with a variety of housemates, including band publicist/Jerry Garcia Band manager Rock Scully (who was dismissed by the group in 1984 for enabling Garcia's addictions and allegedly embezzling the Garcia Band's profits) and Nora Sage, a housekeeper and law student who served as Jerry's platonic companion at the nadir of his opiate addiction and later became his art representative. After briefly reuniting following his diabetic coma, Jerry and Carolyn officially divorced in 1994. Phil Lesh has subsequently stated that he rarely saw Carolyn Garcia on any of the band tours, while Jerry stated that "we haven't really lived together since the Seventies" in a 1991 Rolling Stone interview.
During the autumn of 1978, Jerry developed a friendship with Shimer College student Manasha Matheson, an artist and music enthusiast. They remained friends over the following nine years before initiating a romantic relationship in Hartford, Connecticut on the Grateful Dead's spring 1987 tour. On August 17, 1990, Jerry and Manasha married at their San Anselmo, California home in a spiritual ceremony free of legal convention. Jerry and Manasha became parents with the birth of their daughter, Keelin Noel Garcia, in December 1987. In 1991, Jerry expressed his delight in finding the time to "actually be a father" to Keelin in contrast to his past relationships with his children. A year later, Jerry dedicated his first art book (Paintings, Drawings and Sketches) to Manasha: "For Manasha, with love, Jerry."
In January 1993, Barbara "Brigid" Meier, a former girlfriend from the early 1960s, re-entered Jerry's life. According to Meier, he had considered her to be the "love of his life" and proposed to her during a Hawaiian vacation shortly after their relationship recommenced. However, the "love of his life" sentiment was not reserved for Meier, as Jerry expressed the same feelings to several other women in his life. At Jerry's 1995 funeral, Koons declared that she was "the love of his life" while paying her final respects, whereupon Meier and Ruppenthal, who were both in attendance, simultaneously exclaimed, "He said that to me!"
The affair with Meier marked the breakup of Jerry's family life with Manasha and Keelin. However, Jerry ended the affair with Meier forty-five days later in Chicago while on tour with the Grateful Dead after she confronted him about his drug use. Shortly thereafter, Garcia renewed his acquaintance with Deborah Koons in the spring of 1993. They married in February 1994, in Sausalito, California.
Jerry Garcia served as lead guitarist, as well as one of the principal vocalists and song-writers of the Grateful Dead for their entire career. Jerry Garcia composed such songs as "Dark Star", "Franklin's Tower", and "Scarlet Begonias", among many others. Robert Hunter, an ardent collaborator with the band, wrote the lyrics to all but a few of Garcia's songs.
Jerry Garcia was well-noted for his "soulful extended guitar improvisations", which would frequently feature interplay between him and his fellow band members. His fame, as well as the band's, arguably rested on their ability to never play a song the same way twice. Often, Jerry would take cues from rhythm guitarist Bob Weir, remarking that "there are some kinds of ideas that would really throw me if I had to create a harmonic bridge between all the things going on rhythmically with two drums and Phil's innovative bass playing. Weir's ability to solve that sort of problem is extraordinary. Harmonically, I take a lot of my solo cues from Bob."
When asked to describe his approach to soloing, Jerry 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.
Jerry Garcia and the band toured almost constantly from their formation in 1965 until Jerry's death in 1995. Periodically, there were breaks due to exhaustion or health problems, often due to unstable health and/or Jerry's drug use. During their three-decade span, the Grateful Dead played 2,314 shows.
Jerry Garcia's guitar-playing was eclectic. He melded elements from the various kinds of music that influenced him. Echoes of bluegrass playing could be heard. But the "roots music" behind bluegrass had its influence, too, and melodic riffs from Celtic fiddle jigs can be distinguished. There was also early rock , contemporary blues , country and western , and jazz to be heard in Jerry Garcia's style.
Jerry Garcia's style could vary with the song being played and the instrument he was using, but his playing had a number of so-called "signatures". Among these were lead lines based on rhythmic triplets (examples include the songs "Good Morning Little School Girl", "New Speedway Boogie", "Brokedown Palace", "Deal", "Loser", "Truckin'", "That's It for the Other One", "U.S. Blues", "Sugaree", and "Don't Ease Me In"). Another signature to his style was a poignant, almost pleading quality of musical gesture that, especially in extended solos could evolve into disparate and unpredictable emotional regions such as anxiety, anger, or triumph. This tremendous breadth of emotional expression – between songs or even within a piece – accounts for a great deal of his reputation as a guitarist.
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