Guitarist and songwriter Jerry Garcia was the frontman of the psychedelic rock band the Grateful Dead. He also worked on a number of collaborations and solo albums. He is well-known for his distinctive guitar playing and for his band’s “Deadheads,” fans who followed the band from concert to concert. Garcia struggled with heroin addiction. He died of a heart attack in 1995.
“I don’t go onstage with some kind of messianic vision or anything. I’m basically going out there hoping my guitar is in tune.”
Band leader, guitarist, and songwriter. Born on August 1, 1942, in San Francisco, California. Garcia was the son of a Spanish immigrant who grew up to become a bandleader popular in the San Francisco area. He studied piano as a boy but turned to the guitar in his teens. He dropped out of school at age 17 and served nine months in the U.S. Army before being discharged for poor conduct. He began to play folk and blues guitar, alone or with pickup groups, in clubs in the San Francisco area while working as a salesman and music teacher in a music store.
In 1965 he formed a band, the Warlocks, but on discovering another group with that name, it was changed to the Grateful Dead (1966). Closely involved with the San Francisco hippie movement and the use of drugs such as LSD, the band first played “psychedelic” rock but moved on to a more diverse repertory of rock styles in the 1970s. From around 1974 the band’s members began to go their own ways, and Garcia made solo appearances and albums. In the 1980s he became heavily addicted to drugs, and after being arrested in 1985 was sent to a treatment center. After emerging from a diabetic coma, he decided to turn his life around, and the band made a comeback (1987) with a hit single, “Touch of Gray” and an album, In the Dark.
Garcia and the rest of the band enjoyed this new wave of success and continued to tour, drawing legions of fans – new and old – to their shows. The Grateful Dead had built quite a following over the years and their loyal fans, sometimes called “Deadheads,” were known to travel around the country to catch their concerts. Unfortunately, the show could not go on forever. Despite Garcia’s efforts to improve his lifestyle, all of the years of hard living caught up with him. He died of heart failure on August 9, 1995, in Forest Knolls, California.
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