photo: Jay Blakesberg
On the anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s passing, we revisit this piece which we originally ran back in 2005, ten years after his death.
Phil Lesh: He was an old soul, for one thing. Jerry had this ineffable sweetness and vulnerability, even when he was playing his wildest up-in-the-spheres stuff. It’s something you don’t really see that often in musicians working in this field. We never really talked about this, because it was so obvious to all of us, but he knew he wasn’t making that music; it was like he was just up there quoting or transcribing what it was that was being given to him or coming through him, as we all were in the best moments. That’s the goal that we strive for, that we still strive for. That feeling didn’t have to die with Jerry. It’s in my band, it’s in all the bands.
Bill Kreutzmann: Jerry was the best musician I ever played with. He was 100 percent music. Every pore, every bit of his body, every molecule, was music, whether he liked it or not. He was like a Mile Davis or a Coltrane or somebody like that – just completely locked into it. I always felt that I could hear in his music him talking about things at a much deeper level than what appeared on the surface. There aren’t many musicians who have that gift – to be really profound. I just miss him so much. He was brilliant. He was a great guy. Funny. There was always something to talk about. He was just real – he cut through the bullshit.
Bob Weir: As far as I’m concerned, he’s still here really, inside me and all around. His leadership and his influence isn’t something that disappeared with his body. I hear it whenever I’m playing. You don’t have to close your eyes and concentrate to hear the ring of what he used to do; it’s there. It’s indelibly there in the music and in the songs… I miss the yucks. We spent a lot of time, day in and day out, laughing. For years! We definitely kept each other amused. That’s what I miss most. We laughed our way across America and back around the world.
Mickey Hart: Where do you begin? There’s so much to say about him. He was a benign, lovable guy and he was also a magic man, a shaman. There was a feeling of going out in the world with kindness that Jerry represented. That shines through beyond all the other stuff. He had his problems and he wasn’t exactly a great role model for a lot of things in the material world, but on the stuff that wasn’t material – that was in the spirit world – he was a great and positive influence on so many people, and that has a huge impact on his legacy. It can’t be just music; it’s got to be the spirit dimension, too, that propels you into eternity. It’s what the music does to you, and that has to do with this person who is propelling that energy; it has to do with the spirit of the musician. You couldn’t make that kind of music unless you had a great spirit. Evil people don’t make that happy music; it just doesn’t work. That happiness and that joy came out through the music because it was part of him. And so was the sadness and all the other emotions. He was deep.
Bruce Hornsby: I used to phone prank him a lot. I once had him believing that he was talking live on New Orleans radio to this DJ Ernie K-doe. He’s the guy who had the hit with the song “Mother-in-Law.” Garcia certainly knew who Ernie K-doe was because he wasn’t just an encyclopedia of folk music, but all musical styles, so I had him thinking he was talking on the air and it was a classic. But it got to the point that I phone pranked him so much that he knew all my voices so I couldn’t fool him. Toward the end of his life the only way I could fool him was to imitate him to him. “Hey man…what’s happening man… hey, far out, man,” and he’d be like, “Who is this? Who talks like that?” Well you do, Garcia!
Carlos Santana on his first encounter with Garcia: I was playing “Chim Chim Cherie” – Mary Poppins – in “Jingo” [at the Panhandle, a block-wide extension of Golden Gate Park]. I closed my eyes to take a solo, and when I opened them, there were two people in front of me, Jerry Garcia and Michael Bloomfield, and they were just laughing. But it was laughter of approval. It was like, I’m the new kid on the block, and to my supreme delight, they liked what they were hearing. When Jerry was laughing like that, and Michael Bloomfield, it validated my existence right out of high school, that I could do this, that I could be part of this musician brotherhood thing … I went home like, ‘Damn! These guys like me!
Bill “Kidd” Candelario (Dead crew member) I was talking to the guy who owns some property that adjoined my property in Healdsburg, and they had just handed us the contract to go ahead and buy another 25 acres. I’m out there and the phone rings and somebody goes, “Jerry just passed away,” and I’m looking at all this stuff, thinking “What am I gonna do now?” I lost a really good friend. And I know that the pressures that were put on him were – I don’t think a normal person could handle it, that demand from everybody, of wanting something, a piece of you… It’s just overwhelming. He always wanted to take years off and go someplace in Italy and draw. Go back to some school or someplace where he could take classes and perfect his artwork. I wish he had had the nerve to go ahead and say, “Sorry, I can’t do this anymore. I wanna go away and draw.” But he still probably would have had that same problem. It’s hard to put into words, really, how I feel about it. I did a lot of stuff with Jerry. He taught me a lot… I think I find myself talking to him now and then.
Compiled by Michael Spies