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Remembering Jerry Garcia

Jerry Garcia
(Photo Courtesy of Clayton Call)

It was 18 years ago today (August 9th, 1995), that Grateful Dead singer-guitarist Jerry Garcia died of a heart attack at age 53. At the time, Garcia was at the Serenity Knolls drug-treatment center in Forest Knolls, California, where he was trying once again to get on top of his chemical dependencies. Perhaps more than any other member of the Dead, Garcia was the focal point, although he never sought that role, nor did he wear the title easily. To him, it was a band and a family, and he was a member, which is what he always wanted.

Garcia’s death had a profound impact on many people. His fans, collectively known as “Dead Heads,” mourned his loss, while also realizing that so long as the music existed, he was never really that far away. His bandmates took a while to sort through things before announcing that they could not go on without Garcia. On December 6th, 1995, they released this statement, which said it all: “After four months of heartfelt consideration, the remaining members of the band met yesterday and came to the conclusion that the ‘long strange trip’ of the uniquely wonderful beast known as the Grateful Dead is over.”

If you missed last week’s theatrical screening of the new Grateful Dead concert film, Sunshine Daydream, fear not — it will be out on DVD and CD on September 17th.

The concert was filmed on August 27th, 1972 in Veneta, Oregon. It was a benefit for the Springfield Creamery, which belonged to the family of Merry Prankster Ken Kesey. The band featured a lineup of Jerry Garcia, Donna Jean Godchaux, Keith Godchaux, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, and among the songs performed were “Sugaree,” “Deal,” “Black-Throated Wind,” “Greatest Story Ever Told,” “Bird Song” and a 30-plus minute version of “Dark Star.”

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