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Jerry Garciapassed Essay, Research Paper
Since I’m at work now, I’ll try to type this out with a minimum of tears,although my heart is still aching. This morning I learned that Jerry Garciapassed away.
Why should I care about a rock star who I don’t even know? Why should I feelany pain? Why should I even take the time to write this? I have asked myselfthese questions. But I feel compelled, and the answer will lie in thisletter. The unfortunate first words I heard about his death were from a jerkat work who was callously telling somebody on the phone, “Yeah, he probablydied of a drug overdose or something.” My mind went numb, knowing thesometimes joked-about day is here, for me, and for all who appreciated hismusic.
To communicate just how much impact this passing has on my life, I think it’simportant to tell you that music has had an immense impact on me, and I thinkthat it does on everybody – whether it be Garcia’s, Tool’s, Mozart’s orLawrence Welk’s. It is my belief that most people unfortunately go throughlife with a limited recognition of the influence that music has on them. Eventhough most of us financially float a megabillion dollar music industry, Ithink that most people never consciously think about it.
Think about it now. We dance, buy incredible stereo systems, new CDs, makeour children take tuba lessons, watch MTV, wait in ticket lines, and hold abelief in the possibility that Morrison and Presley are still alive and sitin running, parked cars to listen to the end of a songs that we love – justbecause of that magic moment when music causes chills to spread fromsomewhere deep within, giving us goose bumps. Music motivates us to action.Music directly affects almost everybody’s actions at one time or another. Itis a natural high that most of us have paid to get.
I first listened to the Grateful Dead at college, and immediately slammed myears closed on what I deemed “country music.” U2, REM, the Psychedlic Furs,the Cars and other progressive, early `80s rock and roll were the onlystripes that I flew, and proudly. It wasn’t until I was taken to a series of3 shows at the Spectrum in Phila. in September, 1988, that my mind and heartwere opened to Jerry’s music – what I would call enlightened, quality, maturemusic. This series of shows planted a seed in my life that eventually grewand intertwined with other aspects of my personal life, including interests,hobbies and relationships.
What shocked me about the Dead was the two drummers, the oriental carpets,the zealotry of the fans, the strength and vitality of Bob Weir’s stagepresence and most of all, the absolute mastery of guitar that Jerry showed. Ihad no idea he was that good.
If that show was a door opening, then the 2nd night of the series was when Iwalked though it. On the second night, the show was so incredible that everysong seemed to run right into one another. I gained a new way of listening,loving and judging music. The Dead seemed to have perfect timing – every oneof Phil’s huge bass plunks was countered by one of Jerry’s high-pitchedleads. Brent Mydland had an immense, gruff voice. The drums were steady,persistant and timeless, like the chug of a railroad engine. All of thisentertainment was held aloft by the high flying antics of Garcia’s guitar,which I saw as a multicolored circus of sound.
After the show, we hopped into a old AMC gremlin splattered with tie dyebumper stickers and slammed in The Golden Road – one of the first Dead studioreleases. This was more than testosterone-filled, teenage-angst rock. What Iused to think of the Dead (like old hippy country music) after that liveperformance had been transformed into a grooving, melodic rock and roll witha power and soul that I had never heard before. Each lick of Jerry’s guitarwas a magical gift, like a solitary sunset or glassy, empty ocean swells.Like learning to ski, or like learning to surf, I was incredibly drawn tothis new realm of excitement – music – and I had, (by the next night – my 3rdshow), made the drop and landed on my two feet flat down square in the middleof the golden road to being a deadhead. The world of the Grateful Dead wasopened to me.
One of the largest lessons that night taught me about life was to keep anopen mind about different people, their ideas and their ways. The music andpeople that I had previously ridiculed I now miraculously understood. My god,I even wanted to hang out with them. The deal was, deadheads were super nice,diverse, smelly, poor, musical fanatics who had a super high set ofenvironmental vaules, albeit for most of them, no practical connection fortransforming their ideas into reality. At the core was Jerry and the Dead,timeless, like an group of elders, the Dead were leaders of a disparate castof fans: outlaws, bandits, vendors, circus performers, gogo dancers, bikers,handicapped people, preachers, Capt. Jack rich college students, indians andfreaks who shared a common love and passion for music, mind alteringexperiences, patriotism, and a passion for huge parties (as well as adistaste for cops and government and corporate irresponsibility).
If the Dead was the glue to hold all of this shit together, then Jerry wasone the herculean gods, who got behind the 100 thousand ton piece of shit toshove it down the road, time and time again. Jerry was a workaholic whowouldn’t stand still.
In 7 years, I have grown to love blues and jazz as well as rock and roll. Inbetween several jobs, graduating from 2 colleges, 4 relationships, movingfrom the east to the west to the south to the north again, and the fast paceof life in the northeast, I have managed to enrich my life through manyadventures in the U.S.. On top of the Dead, I have also seen Chick Corea inAllentown, PA, smoking jazz in NYC, a boat run aground at the Newport JazzFestival in Rhode Island, Phish in a bar in Phila. before they were big,Meryl Saunders with about 20 people in a college auditorium, Bruce Hornsby atan ice rink in Vail, Colorado and the Allman Bros. kick ass in many places. Iattribute these experiences to Jerry and the Dead. I apply this spirit ofadventure to other areas of my life as well. You can sit on your ass, or youcan make your own adventure. I think that Jerry once said in a Rolling Stoneinterview that I read that the United States can still be an adventure. Hegave all who were willing that chance. He was the foundation of a band whoenabled the living embodiment of Kerouc’s On the Road.
In the short time that Jerry was alive while I was a fan, I went to about 40Dead shows. I saw them play in Philadelphia, Albany, New Jersey, New YorkCity, Hampton (Virginia) and Nassau County (New York), Salt Lake City, and onthe shores of the Mississippi at a huge glass Pyramid in Memphis. One Autumn,I went to see Jerry in Phila., NYC, Richmond, Hampton and a couple otherplaces that I can’t remember and I still think my liver hasn’t recouperated.I must have visited all of my best friends on the east coast through theDead. I picked up the guitar because I wanted to sing his songs.
And I’m just one person. In addition, for all of those magic shows, therewere hundreds of thousands of people who dropped what they were doing to seethe Dead, and in particular, Jerry Garcia. Year after year, every singlefan’s work, sweat and efforts led them to travel to a place where a lot ofeducated and liberal minded music fanatics could try to freely gather toshare a single frame of mind, at the same time, on a single note of Jerry’s,during the climaxes that culminated songs like Dark Star, Dear Jude, CaseyJones and Unbroken Chain. All eyes present and work done were at thoselocations for one reason, to feast on the source of the music – the fourfingered hand of Jerry Garcia.
Garcia made me cry about a hundred times. His music I held very personally,and in whether in love or distress, I could put on some Dead and relax andknow that things are OK. Listening to a good Jerry song is like sharingsomething intimate with the players, and losing him is like losing a friend.Jerry Garcia’s music won’t die. He and the Dead are part of a good life thatincludes close friends and family, true mates, shared waves and dark beer. Iwill miss him.
So as the press tries to sell their papers and the news tries to sell theircommercials by hyping the death of Garcia, please try to remember that theJerry was one only person. Maybe the 60s symbolically died in the small mindsof the hypocritical baby boomers today. But for us Dead fans, the Dead willkeep on playing on. There is something timeless about them, and we all knowit. We all knew this day would come at one time or another, and it’simportant that we think about how deadheads want to proceed. We know we arejust as big a part as the Dead as the band. We should use Jerry’s actionsover the past 30+ years as an example. I will work through this sad time,then keep on partying.
“If you’re on the bus, and you get left behind, then you’ll find it again.”-Ken Kesey
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