Happy Birthday, Jerry!

Jerry Garcia (Sculpture in Hard Rock Cafe, New York City)

Jerry Garcia as a guitarist maybe wasn’t as flashy as a Jimmy Page or a Jimi Hendrix, but he was nevertheless just as influential. As the main man of The Grateful Dead, and as a solo artist, Garcia always seemed to find a comfortable groove in any song, no matter if it was rock, country, blues or jazz.

Beyond his singing, guitar playing and songwriting (Garcia co-wrote many of the Dead’s songs with lyricist Robert Hunter), Jerry Garcia is most important in helping establish rock and roll as an art form best experienced live and in person.

The Grateful Dead’s legendary live shows, with large chunks of improvised performance, are noteworthy for their sheer passion and depth of virtuosity, if not also for their length. You hear about Bruce Springsteen playing some four-hour concert somewhere, just know that long ago The Grateful Dead been there, done that.

Many people are not fans of The Grateful Dead, that’s for sure. But for every one of those there has to be at least four or five devoted fans – surely the Dead have one of the largest and most loyal fan bases in all of rock and roll.

Jerry Garcia would have turned 70 years ago today; he died in 1995 at age 53. Like him or not, let’s toast one of the most visible icons of 1960s rock and a great musician.

MP3: “Dark Star” (single) by The Grateful Dead

MP3: “Shakedown Street” by The Grateful Dead

MP3: “Touch of Grey” by The Grateful Dead

MP3: “St. Stephen” (live, 1969) by The Grateful Dead

MP3: “Casey Jones” (live, 1971) by The Grateful Dead

MP3: “Amazing Grace” by Jerry Garcia, David Grisman and Tony Rice

MP3: “I Shall Be Released” by the Jerry Garcia Band

MP3: “Johnny B. Goode” (live, 1971) by The Grateful Dead

YouTube: “Uncle John’s Band” by The Grateful Dead, 1980

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