Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jerry Garcia, Grateful Dead Leader, Dies 1942 - 1995

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jerry Garcia, Grateful Dead Leader, Dies 1942 - 1995

Article excerpt

Jerry Garcia, the mellow spirit who had led the Grateful Dead since the psychedelic 1960s and helped make the rock band a way of life for its hordes of nomadic fans, died at a drug rehabilitation center Wednesday (Aug. 9, 1995). He was 53.

Mr. Garcia died in bed of a heart attack in suburban San Francisco, said Dennis McNally, the band's publicist and historian for 15 years. Mr. Garcia had a history of drug abuse but in recent years had been trying to clean up and lose weight.

The guitarist, composer and singer was mourned by the devoted hordes known as Deadheads who made the Grateful Dead a top concert draw into the 1990s as well as by politicians and business leaders who came of age with the band.

Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, a 50-year-old Republican and an unabashed fan, called Mr. Garcia's death "a loss to both my generation and my children's."

"More than any one song, it was just the consistently mellow approach they took to everything, life as well as music."

In San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury, the center of 1960s counterculture, a red rose was tied to a tree at 710 Ashbury Street, where the Dead began their rock 'n' roll trip three decades ago. A crowd gathered, some crying and hugging. One man knelt in prayer.

"It's a big loss for the world and anyone who loves music," said Bob Weir in New Hampshire, where he dedicated a concert Wednesday night to the friend he launched the Dead with three decades earlier. "His life was far more a blessing for all of us. . . . Perhaps if we're going to dwell on anything, we should dwell on that."

Word of Mr. Garcia's death also quickly spread on the Internet, where so many fans were sharing their grief Wednesday that the Sausalito-based WELL computer network posted warnings of a system slowdown.

"There's a lot of sadness out there," said Dan Levy, a designer of computer on-line systems in New York and longtime follower of the band. "It's the end of an era, but we knew it would come to an end someday."

Under Mr. Garcia, the Grateful Dead combined rock, bluegrass and folk influences into a unique stew.

Among the band's best known songs were "Truckin'," "Casey Jones," "Sugar Magnolia" and "Friend of the Devil." Its only top 10 hit was the 1987 song "Touch of Grey," with its refrain "I will survive."

The potbellied, bearded, wild-haired Mr. Garcia spoke rarely in concert, making for a yoga-like presence whose every utterance was given oracular significance by fans eager to spread his message of peace and love. He branched out in later years, designing silk ties, men's shirts and wet suits. The hippie capitalists at Ben & Jerry's even named a flavor of ice cream Cherry Garcia for the man they said inspired their business philosophy.

In concert, Mr. Garcia was either spotty or spectacular. …

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