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On this day in history, Jerry Garcia from The Grateful Dead was born

Jerry Garcia, celebrated musician, tireless live performer, and master of American musical tradition, was born on this day in history, August 1, 1942, in San Francisco.

Garcia is best known as a prolific songwriter, lead guitarist and the most visible face of The Grateful Dead. The band emerged from the West Coast counterculture of the 1960s and became a formidable touring act for 30 years.

The band defied music industry convention that required truncated three-minute records for airplay and retail sales.

“The Grateful Dead didn’t play in sets; no eight numbers per movement, then a 25-minute break, and so on, four or five movements, and then the close-out,” wrote Tom Wolfe in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, his seminal 1968 nonfiction book, The captured the hallucinogenic haze of the Californian counterculture.

“The dead could play a number for five or thirty minutes,” Wolfe wrote. “Who was keeping time? Who could keep time when history is cut to pieces? The dead could get stoned just like everyone else.”

Garcia died in 1995, days after turning 53 after several years of struggling with health and addiction issues.

Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and Bill Kreutzmann perform with the Grateful Dead on September 13, 1981 at the Greek Theater in Berkeley.
Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and Bill Kreutzmann perform with the Grateful Dead on September 13, 1981 at the Greek Theater in Berkeley.
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Garcia’s image remains closely linked to the San Francisco music scene of the late 1960s and to the upheaval in American society that consumed that era.

But Garcia was largely apolitical.

Artistically, he is a giant of American songcraft.

Garcia’s first musical love was the banjo, one of the few instruments invented in America. He played in the bluegrass band Hart Valley Drifters at the age of 20, with whom he made his first known studio recording, The Wall Street Journal reported in 2016.

“The five-string banjo was the first instrument that really consumed him around 1962 as he practiced for hours every day,” instrument maker Deering said in 2019.

Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead performs on stage at the Tivoli Concert Hall in Copenhagen, Denmark in April 1972.
Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead performs on stage at the Tivoli Concert Hall in Copenhagen, Denmark in April 1972.
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Garcia formed a jug band in 1964 with future Dead-mates Bob Weir and Rob “Pigpen” McKernan. They recorded an album of folk songs called Mother McCree’s Uptown-Jug Champions.

Garcia played banjo, guitar and kazoo.

He taught himself to play the pedal steel guitar, an instrument that became popular in the Hawaiian Islands and is still often heard in country music today.

Garcia was so good at pedal steel that he was able to play it on the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young hit “Teach Your Children.” Its distinctive high notes give the song its sunny folk-country appeal.

The Grateful Dead perform at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, California in September 1981.
The Grateful Dead perform at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, California in September 1981.
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It became a chart hit in 1970 and enjoyed decades of airplay on FM album-oriented radio.

Garcia and The Grateful Dead dove into the country music standard “Mama Tried” by Merle Haggard during their midnight Woodstock set in August 1969 – ending with a 45-minute version of the R&B classic “Turn On Your Love Light.” from 1961 by Bobby Fade.

The website SavingCountryMusic.com asked in 2015 if the Grateful Dead — not a rock or country act — was the most important American band of all time.

“The Grateful Dead demonstrated not only their expertise but also their dedication to typically American musical forms,” ​​the website reads.

Garcia was born to play American music. His parents named him after legendary Broadway composer Jerome Kern, who contributed to American songbook standards like “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” and “The Way You Look Tonight.”

A memorial banner for Jerry Garcia is on display in Central Park on August 19, 1995 in New York City.
: A memorial banner for Jerry Garcia is on display in Central Park, New York City on August 19, 1995.
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Garcia briefly served his country backstage.

He joined the army in 1960 but proved to be a terrible soldier. He was booted with a general discharge that same year.

Rolling Stone published “Jerry Garcia’s 50 Greatest Songs” in 2020. “Uncle John’s Band” topped the list and was praised for its odes to Americana.

“With a title that refers to his middle name, it offers an image of a singer and his violin by the riverbank and brings together a ragtag bunch of misfits and outcasts into one community,” Rolling Stone said.

“With Garcia, Bob Weir and Phil Lesh joining their fragile voices to proclaim their hippie tribalism as part of a great Native American tradition,” the publication added.

https://nypost.com/2022/08/01/on-this-day-in-history-the-grateful-dead-s-jerry-garcia-was-born/ On this day in history, Jerry Garcia from The Grateful Dead was born

Emma Bowman

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