Jerry Garcia

Jerome John Garcia (August 1, 1942 – August 9, 1995)[1][2][3][4] was an American musician best known for being the principal songwriter, lead guitarist, and a vocalist with the rock band Grateful Dead, which he co-founded and which came to prominence during the counterculture of the 1960s.[5][6] Although he disavowed the role, Garcia was viewed by many as the leader of the band.[7][8][9] He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 as a member of the Grateful Dead.

Jerry Garcia
Garcia performing in 1977, Fox Theatre, Atlanta, Georgia
Jerome John Garcia

August 1, 1942
San Francisco, California, U.S.
DiedAugust 9, 1995(1995-08-09) (aged 53)
Forest Knolls, California, U.S.
  • Guitarist
  • singer
  • songwriter
Years active1960–1995
Sara Ruppenthal
(m. 1963, divorced)

(m. 1981; div. 1994)

Manasha Matheson
(m. 1990)

Deborah Koons
(m. 1994)
Musical career
  • Guitar
  • banjo
  • pedal steel guitar
  • vocals
Formerly of

As one of its founders, Garcia performed with the Grateful Dead for the band's entire 30-year career (1965–1995). Garcia also founded and participated in a variety of side projects, including the Saunders–Garcia Band (with longtime friend Merl Saunders), the Jerry Garcia Band, Old & In the Way, the Garcia/Grisman and Garcia/Kahn acoustic duos, Legion of Mary, and New Riders of the Purple Sage (which he co-founded with John Dawson and David Nelson).[8] He also released several solo albums, and contributed to a number of albums by other artists over the years as a session musician. He was well known for his distinctive guitar playing, and was ranked 13th in Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" cover story in 2003.[10] In the 2015 version of the list he was ranked at #46.[11]

Garcia was renowned for his musical and technical ability, particularly his ability to play a variety of instruments and sustain long improvisations. Garcia believed that improvisation took stress away from his playing and allowed him to make spur of the moment decisions that he would not have made intentionally. In a 1993 interview with Rolling Stone, Garcia noted that "my own preferences are for improvisation, for making it up as I go along. The idea of picking, of eliminating possibilities by deciding, that's difficult for me". Originating from the days of the "acid tests", these improvisations were a form of exploration rather than playing a song already written.[12]

Later in life, Garcia struggled with diabetes. In 1986, he went into a diabetic coma that nearly cost him his life. Although his overall health improved somewhat after the incident, he continued to struggle with obesity, smoking, and long-standing heroin and cocaine addictions.[9][13] He was staying in a California drug rehabilitation facility when he died of a heart attack on August 9, 1995 at age 53.[7][14]

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