Jerry Garcia, A Legacy?

Unfortunately, many years have passed since Jerry Garcia engaged in the art of music making. I've never known of another electric guitarist who could incorporate without clear and cut demarcations the many multitudes of rock and roll, folk, jazz, blues, bluegrass, country, explorational real time composition, sustain induced psychedelic developments Be it partially safe to say also that I've yet to know of another electric guitarist whose playing was either loved or scorned to the extent that his was. Throughout my life as a Dead fan and follower of Jerry Garcia and of his various musical projects, I remember verbal battles with musicians who found JG's playing less enlightening than I and often my comments turned into vicious polemics defending the Grateful Dead' artistic integrity. Granted, JG did have many obvious musical hurdles during performances and didn't exhibit a typical so called pristine guitar playing technique but first and foremost consider that he played mainly rock and popular music (to make a point), on mainly an electric guitar, with a pick and 4 fingers, using electronic components on stages inside theaters, OK get real! Does Hiram Bullock posses the same technical polish as Julian Bream? The answer to that is a resounding no, neither did Jimi Hendrix and it's really of no consequence anyhow. What I very much loved about Jerry Garcia was that he placed musicality before entertainment and he took on a sense of risk, even danger, in order to help elevate the other playing musicians around him. Yes, Jerry Garcia's playing often ran hot and cold but when his playing ran hot, the rest of the Grateful Dead or Jerry Garcia Band would rise to a whole new level and when he ran cold, it had tenuous effect on the other participating musicians. I have to attribute Jerry Garcia's heightened level of ensemble cooperation to the way he listened intently with creative imagination, to his sensitive and tasteful playing, to his getting out of the way when the band needed space and to the degree of his vast musical knowledge that he gave away freely whenever the opportunity presented itself. From a subjective perspective while disregarding controversy, the music and persona of the Grateful Dead and of Jerry Garcia touched an enormous fan base which exhibited a degree of loyalty and dedication beyond compare. Many of the kids that I grew up with disliked the Grateful Dead and I would make the radical assumption that they still do. I don't mind bucking the trends and I'll even take a little pride in my prophetic wisdoms. How about you??

Showing 1 response by sunnyjim

I began to seriously listen to the Grateful Dead in 1973. This occurred because I had a good friend who was enamoured by the Dead's music, and in particular Garcia's musicianship.He was in SF during the "Summer of Love" in 1967, so he was witness to their evolution as a rock band. His admiration was only heightened by the way I was able to verbalize the genius of the band's playing. To please my friend,I may have overlooked some the minor flaws of JC's playing and the lethargy that the band as whole occasionally displayed in concert.

At this time, the Dead were heading into their most creative period which some critics claim ended with the Europe'72 tour. I have to disagree wit these claims. I was never the Deadhead that my friend was, but I understood his devotion to the band. He often claimed that few guitarist of the day had as many "musical ideas" as JC, though he acknowledged the great musicianship of Clapton, Townsend, and John McLaughlin. We both agreed that Hendrix was in a class by himself. I was never a big Hendrix fan, though he brought the art of the electric guitar to the limits of its capability.

In my opinion, Garcia and the Dead were synonymous with the ethos and culture of San Francisco in the 1970's. They were as much part of the beat generation as hippies. With JC as their maestro, the Dead played blues, country, Latin. gospel, rock, acid rock, and 40's and 50's swing. I always told my friend that there was a sadness, a sorror underneath the sound of Garcia's music. It possessed an "old world" Spanish timbre, which also was existential in its solitude. I often reminded me of paintings in Spanish missions churches of the "Mater Delarosa"....the sad mother weeping. It can be easily heard in songs like "Black Peter", "Stella Blue" "Deal" and to a degree in "Candyman" and "It Must Have Been the Roses" and some other of their less expansive tunes.

I think Garcia's genius was exemplified in his musicianship, and the ability to create segues into other realms of music, and musical genres. He was the greatest maestro of the type and style of rock music that was patentedly the Grateful Dead. One can only wonder what JC and the Dead would have been capable of, even after 2000 plus live concerts and 35 years of "playing in the band"