GONE ALMOST 14 YEARS BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN
Jerry Garcia would have turned 67 today if he were still with us. But those that know, well, know Jerry is still with us in ways that defy any normal description. Few individuals have made a greater impact on culture and music, and his rise to prominence in the hyper-information age has disseminated his "hippy Santa Claus" image in ways as pervasive as any single image in the past century. Iconic doesn't quite cover it. Garcia, even in absentia, exudes an aura that lingers and seeps into one, the sort of presence one associates with mystics, great social thinkers/activists, brilliant philosophers and other bringers of wisdom and illuminating change. Jerry was all of these things, to one degree or another (and perhaps even more accessible to the common man because of his all-too-human flaws and weaknesses), but mainly he was a musician of ultimate potency, who even in his stumbling managed to always impart something profound, some sliver of truth or beauty that helps redeem all the wickedness and smallness humanity is capable of.
There is ultimately too much that can be said about the man, so instead of rambling on we'll simply dive into a choice selection of his legacy and encourage one and all to pause momentarily today to consider Garcia's impact in their own life. To say we miss the man is a grotesque understatement, but today instead of dwelling on the sad vacuum of his literal absence from the world we choose to celebrate what he gave us, a body of work that continues to infuse and inform our days.
While he's obviously best known for being part of the Grateful Dead, for the generation that discovered him in the '80s, the spine of the contemporary jam scene, it is often memories of his joyful playing with the Jerry Garcia Band that surface when we think of him. We begin our remembrance today with a sterling 1990 run through a Dylan classic that he truly made his own.
Though it often feels like it never will, Garcia and his pals have a way of reminding us this darkness got to end. This concert footage was shot shortly after the release of Workingman's Dead and shows the boys in fine, frisky form.
His voice sometimes carried the feeling of a wound that never quite heals. It's a sound that slices down to a place of deep humanity, as exemplified by this ragged but right tune for this particular day.
There are tunes in his repertoire that carry the same universal unifying vibe as the best Woody Guthrie. This one always seems to scoop up anyone in hearing range and plop them down in a better place.
There's a great many versions of this staple but this one is especially jaunty, redolent with the Django-isms that frequently surfaced in Garcia's playing. This JGB concert took place on September 1, 1990 at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, CA. The Grateful Dead had been scheduled to play but Brent Mydland's death the previous June had caused the band to cancel, which infused the show with a special poignancy for those in attendance.
Let's jump back about a year at the same venue for a saucy "Prophet" with both Jerry and Brent laying it down proper. For the full effect, here's part two of this performance.
One gets the feeling that Elmore James would have LOVED this take on his amazing blues number.
Don't tell me this town ain't got no heart!
This wonderful vintage clip shows off the sort of big, beautiful, chaotic group grope that Garcia helped spawn.
There's a number of song pairings that became sacred to fans over the years, and none more so than this one-two punch taken from New Jersey in the late '70s.
The eloquence of Garcia's playing on this late period classic is something to behold.
One of the things Jerry often commented on was the moment that would occur during their shows where a door to something quite profound would open. This is the spot where the more broken, tender numbers would surface. Here's a pair of such unfolding, tenderizing moments.
Here's the boys getting down to the heart of rock 'n' roll with a lil' assist from one Pete Townshend!
Can you believe they let these guys into the Playboy Mansion? Nice poncho, Jer!
Outside of the Dead, Garcia had a few significant partnerships, notably with bassist John Kahn and mandolin whiz David Grisman. Here's one offering from each.
We travel back to the legendary Europe '72 tour for our closer. While this one became WAY more lived in over time, it's worth noting that Garcia never flinched at Death's shadow even in his earliest days. Like the bluesman he surely was, he stared down The Reaper's scythe with steely intensity in a way that helps all of us accept and comprehend this dark truth.
We are so lucky that you were born, sir, and we wish you the happiest of birthdays wherever you may be.
And don't forget, you can eyeball video sweetness 24/7 with JamBase TV.