Perspectives on the Grateful Dead: Critical Writings

By Robert G. Weiner | Go to book overview

Legally Dead: The Grateful Dead and American Legal Culture

David FraserandVaughan Black


INTRODUCTION

The death of Jerry Garcia struck a blow from which many Deadheads have yet to recover. Garcia and the Grateful Dead were, as the news reports following his demise rarely failed to mention, American icons. The publication of this book is just one indication of the place of Jerry and the Dead in American culture. Yet, because Jerry Garcia was an American icon, his death gave rise not just to widespread mourning and feelings of irreparable loss, but also to litigation. The dispute in the case of Garcia v. Garcia (1996) pitted Jerry’s estate against Carolyn ‘‘Mountain Girl’’ Garcia. At issue was the validity of a written agreement between Jerry and Mountain Girl whereby in consideration of their divorce Jerry agreed to pay a sum of money over a period of years. The estate, and more particularly Garcia’s wife at the time of his death, Deborah Koons Garcia, argued that the marriage between Jerry and Mountain Girl was a pretense, designed to alleviate Jerry’s tax liability. Their legal argument was that because the marriage was a sham, any agreement in relation to a subsequent divorce would be void.

Many Deadheads were saddened by the spectacle of this trial. Some saw a tragic replay of the drama played out previously in the ‘‘Yoko Ono wrecked the Beatles’’ debacle, where gender and marriage roles turn ugly in the world of rock and roll, and legal battles ensue. Mountain Girl was there at the beginning, Jerry’s soul mate in the heady days of the Acid Tests and the Haight. For many, Garcia v. Garcia was a pitiful and disheartening attempt to try the sixties within the technical boundaries of matrimonial and contract law. It was a clash of incompatible worlds.

This apparent conflict, and the contradictions between what many saw

-19-

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