Reflections: Jerry Garcia’s Life and Legacy (John Bell, Del McCoury, Ethan Miller, Neal Casal…)
Here is our latest installment of artists’ commentaries on the life and legacy of Jerry Garcia.. Click here to read reminiscences by members of Umphrey’s McGee, The Decemberists, The Meters, Megafaun and Strangefolk and click here to read commentaries by Jimmy Herring, Henry Rollins, Aaron Maxwell, Papa Mali and others.
JOHN BELL (WIDESPREAD PANIC)
“How I Spent my Summer Vacation”
I attended a Jerry Garcia Band show in Cleveland, Ohio in the early 80’s (Playhouse Square, I think). I remember each song seeming like a full concert. Jerry Garcia’s talking Guitar and vocal approach together painted images that let me experience the music on both a personal and what I believed to be a universal level. Jerry and the Band were playing and singing, but it also seemed that they were letting the songs play them (the musicians), as well – creating a kind of “musical sincerity.” That “letting the song play you” impression has since played a part in the way I try to apply myself to a tune – be it an original, or someone else’s. I will always hold heart-filled gratitude for that evening, and for Mr. Garcia.
ETHAN MILLER (HOWLIN RAIN)
What was most important about those huge gold and purple tracers Jerry left behind on this Earth? The monolithic sub-world/following and live legacy of the dead? The industry crushing business model as
sketched out by M.C. Escher? The great, curious, defiant, rambling songs? The guitar god who built the biggest sound system of any gunslinger around and then turned the mellow up to 11 and shook the stadium to the dirt with the heaviest mellow crush the world had ever heard?!—-Naw, far as I’m concerned that’s all just fun for a bump and a bag of nitrous balloons on an Indian summer afternoon. What will always be the truth of the Grateful Dead is Jerry’s voice. In a group who’s multi-dimensional entity embodies the hustler, the lover, the hippie, the madman, the noble artist and the trickster (often in the same song), it is Jerry’s voice that gives us the truth beneath that tough hippie-outlaw veneer of the groups narrative. Therein lies the vulnerability, the imperfection, the fear and hope of the human soul. That voice can brag of conquest, beating the odds, murder and living fast, free and easy but in that shaky warble and falsetto sliver of a moon voice Jerry always pays penance to the melancholy that grows and spreads in the outlaw’s soul with each passing day further down the road. That’s the “truth” of the blues that was mostly left behind in the black rural south and Chicago clubs when the 60s and 70s rockers claimed the blues as their own and tried to make it into a superhero’s cape. When Jerry sings, it’s pale blue man, and it cuts to the bone every time. The heart of happiness is sorrow, the shadow of bravery is fear, the color of love is the loss of it, to live a life is certain death. It takes a brave and beautiful voice to sing that kind of truth.
MATT VALENTINE (MV & EE)
I reckon what I love most about Jerry is that he gave so much music. I’ve learned a great deal from his phrasing and really dig his timing. I try to incorporate that “volume” into our music with a slant toward the DIY underground rather than the stadium. I think that’s why I’m so into the JGB band in their small club phases, the sheer joy of the playing colliding with a real people scene. such a good vibe. fave tune, so many of ‘em, but probably “Rosemary” & “Spidergawd”. Sheeit yeah!
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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