Deadheads Keep on Truckin' Jerry Garcia, a Rock Icon, Shows Legacy of 1960s Culture Endures

Article excerpt

WHEN I arrived at Middlebury College in 1977, the Grateful Dead had already been around for more than a decade.

But they were news to me - until my freshman roommate walked in the door, a bandana tied around her flowing hair and a Pinto wagon in the parking lot full of bootleg recordings. Her stereo took an honored place in our room, and the strains of "Uncle John's Band" and "Truckin'" poured into the dorm every night.

I was not amused. Neither was the guy I later married, whose own roommate thought the perfect way to pass an evening was to play "Europe '72" over and over. Like it or not, we both lived with our own little slice of the '60s, a Deadhead world that could be both endearing for its devotion to creativity and freedom, and exasperating for its dissoluteness - the experimentation with peyote buttons (and other mind-altering substances), the long games of Ultimate Frisbee even at exam time, the "free love."

The death of Jerry Garcia, the band's lead singer-guitarist, has brought it all back for better or worse - the music, the drugs, the debauchery. Upon reflection, the music wasn't really all that bad, a free-ranging blend of folk, rock, and the blues with a dose of psychedelia. Garcia's guitar-playing was mighty, his vocals warbly. Perhaps most extraordinary was his band's ability to keep drawing in new, young fans, who even this summer piled into old Volkswagen buses and followed the Dead's concert tour around the country - a reminder of the enduring influence of icons of the 1960s.in American culture.

Now that nation of devoted fans - including Vice President Gore and the governor of Massachusetts - is recalling Garcia's legacy. They are flocking to public spaces, and to the Internet, to reminisce about an era that has irrevocably come to a close.

In San Francisco, news of Garcia's death brought scores of followers to 710 Ashbury Street, where the band lived communally in the mid-'60s. Roses, irises, and sunflowers adorned the stairs. People cried. Some left responsible jobs to pay their respects. Some came with kids. Some looked like poster children from the 1960s. …