Reflections: Jerry Garcia’s Life and Legacy (Warren Haynes, Jorma Kaukonen, Chuck Leavell, Ronnie McCoury, Brad Barr…)
Here on the 17th anniversary of his passing is our final 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, Click here to hear from John Bell, Del McCoury, Ethan Miller, Neal Casal and more, and click here for memories from his Grateful Dead bandmates.
One of the things that some people overlook is the vast amount of great songs he left behind. We get a glimpse, through these songs, into all the different types of music that influenced him which went way beyond the previous decade or two. He was a student of folk music who was somehow able to turn a modern generation onto something that they didn’t know they were interested in by incorporating roots that sometimes went back a hundred years or more into his own unique style of songwriting.
Sometimes the sign of a great song is how many different ways it can be successfully re-interpreted or re-arranged. If you think of all the different ways he and/or the Dead interpreted the songs and add to that all the different ways that bands and artists who came later interpreted them there could be an entire College course devoted to just that.
The music of Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I am a Bay Area native with two older brothers so it was only natural that their music had a major presence in my life. The taste, tone and feel of Jerry’s guitar playing are so beautifully executed. That signature sound paired with his ability to exhibit so much off the cuff creativity has always made him a guitar player I deeply admire and respect.”
“A Walk With Friends”
I was in the Bay Area not long ago and it happened to coincide with Jerry’s birthday and people were taking note of it and it was Jerry Day at the ballPark for a Giant’s game and there were bobble head dolls and who knows what else? People ask me from time to time, ‘What was he like? What did you guys talk about?’ etc. etc. Even my wife, Vanessa, was asking me this morning, ‘Did you share a spiritual vision together?’ Well, I grant you all that these are all valid questions after the fact, but in that time… life was truly much simpler and in many ways more profound.
When I moved to San Francisco in 1965, I found a third floor walk-up at 1145 Divisadero Street…west side of the street between Turk and Eddy. Now in those days, the Western Addition, as that neighborhood was called was somewhat marginal. That said, we musicians and artists were welcomed by the locals and indeed it was a nice little community. (All those buildings are long gone, of course.)
Anyway, I remember I was out in front of our building washing my ratty but much beloved Sunbeam convertible and who should I see walking down Divisadero from the general direction of the Haight, but Jerry Garcia. ‘Hey man, how’s it going?’ I remember him saying. ‘It’s going great I replied.’ It was one of those rare and utterly lovely sunny, warm days in S.F. I had a garden hose and a bucket of soap. Jerry just grabbed a rag and unbidden started to help me wash that old car.
What did we talk about? Well, I’d be lying if I said I remembered exactly, but as I look back through that misty veil of years, we just talked about being alive on that beautiful morning, in a beautiful place.
We were about halfway done washing that loveable old junker when a homeless guy passing us on the sidewalk stopped to talk for a bit. ‘I could use a dollar boys,’ he said. ‘But I ain’t begging. I’ll sell you this ring for a buck.’ Now, Jerry didn’t have any extra fun tickets in his pocket but I had three or four dollars. Being the pack rat that I have always been, I figured, ‘What the heck? Let me see that thing.’ Out of his pocket he pulled a large carnelian stone in a German Silver setting. ‘Yeah, I’ll take it,’ I said and gave him one of my dollars.
He thanked me and walked on. I put the ring in my pocket and Jerry and I finished washing the little car. We talked a little more about life in general and he bade me goodbye and continued up Divisadero towards Geary.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this little note… that question… “What do remember most about Jerry?’ I guess after the fact, what I remember is two young guys who in some way shared in their vision a passionate love for music specifically and for life in general. Two young guys who in that moment had much of their life ahead of them… many blank pages to fill.
Two young guys who, in that moment so long ago on the streets of San Francisco, were quite simply… just friends.
My old bud Jerry, is gone now, may he rest in peace… but I still have the ring.
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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