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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Sunday, August 08, 2010


Dylan & Garcia, summer 1986; photographer unknown;

I know it's been a long silence on this blog - I've been rather swamped by holiday visitors lately - but I hope to resume normal service soon.

Meanwhile I note that tomorrow Jerry Garcia will have been dead for 15 years. Here's his entry in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia (though naturally there's a lot more info and comment in the entry on the Grateful Dead, which I don't reproduce here):

Garcia, Jerry [1942 - 1995]
Jerome John Garcia was born in the city he later came to embody, San Francisco, on the first day of 1942. Although his reputation essentially rests on his having been a founder member, and the leader, of THE GRATEFUL DEAD, as of the groups that preceded it and morphed into it, he nevertheless pursued a very large number of other projects, even forming a parallel band in the 1970s, The Jerry Garcia Band, which itself had an active life and recorded prolifically.

He was an extraordinary guitarist and a fine banjo player, and another performing project of his was the shortlived bluegrass band Old And In The Way, in which he played banjo, teamed with mandolinist DAVID GRISMAN, plus Peter Rowan and the great veteran fiddle-player Vassar Clements (who died in August 2005). In 1975 they produced what was until recently the biggest-selling bluegrass album in history, Old And In The Way. (Garcia and Grisman had first met in 1964 at a Bill Monroe concert in Pennsylvania.)

Jerry Garcia was also sufficiently interested in film to study it briefly in college in the early 1960s. In 1970 he worked on the soundtrack of Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point, playing an improvised guitar piece known as ‘Love Scene’. Later he co-directed The Grateful Dead Movie, which mixed animation with concert footage. He also played banjo in the 1978 re-make of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In 1990 he and David Grisman got back together, formed an acoustic duo and (of course) recorded a number of albums.

Jerry Garcia died of a heart-attack in a drug-rehabilitation clinic in Forest Knolls, California on August 9, 1995, aged 53. Dylan paid him just about the most fulsome tribute he’s ever paid anyone (and he tends toward the fulsome on these occasions anyway, perhaps surprisingly):

‘There’s no way to measure his greatness or magnitude as a person or as a player. I don’t think any eulogizing will do him justice. He was that great, much more than a superb musician, with an uncanny ear and dexterity. He’s the very spirit personified of whatever is Muddy River country at its core and screams up into the spheres. He really had no equal. To me he wasn’t only a musician and friend, he was more like a big brother who taught and showed me more than he’ll ever know. There’s a lot of spaces and advances between THE CARTER FAMILY, BUDDY HOLLY and, say, Ornette Coleman, a lot of universes, but he filled them all without being a member of any school. His playing was moody, awesome, sophisticated, hypnotic and subtle. There’s no way to convey the loss. It just digs down really deep.’

Dylan was among the many who attended the funeral service for Garcia at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Belvedere, California on August 11, 1995.

[The 6-CD box set All Good Things: Jerry Garcia Studio Sessions, 2005, includes a ‘Simple Twist Of Fate’, a ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ and a ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’; if bought direct from a bonus 7th CD is included, which features a lengthy ‘Visions Of Johanna’ ( says 16 minutes long, the Garcia site says 17).]


Anonymous Kieran said...

Yeah, Bob is quite eloquent when it comes to talking about the dead. Very potent stuff there: "His playing was moody, awesome, sophisticated, hypnotic and subtle."

It's some tribute, quite lyrical, too...

12:31 am  
Anonymous Harold Lepidus said...

Nice tribute ! . . .(Small correction): Jerome John Garcia was born in the city he later came to embody, San Francisco, on the first day of 1942. (Should be "first day of August, 1942") . . .

5:16 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Hi Harold:
many thanks for the correction. It's a typescript omission I'd never noticed. "August" will be restored in any future edition.

10:26 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Worth a listen.
Poor audio, but a wonderful vocal on Memphis Blues from a night ago.
Pat Ford

11:59 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, pardon me.
The link:

12:01 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting article. However, I don't believe Jerry ever attended college. He hung out in Palo Alto, which was a college town, but was never a student. On the movies, his favorite movie was "Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein," which says a lot about his outlook on life.

1:36 am  

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