Since August 1st, which would’ve been Grateful Dead front man Jerry Garcia’s birthday, we’ve run quite a number of articles about Garcia leading up to today’s anniversary of his untimely death. We’ve got one more Jerry-centric post before we ease up, but we thought this was worth sharing.
Back on the 1st Phil Lesh played a show at his Terrapin Crossroads venue dedicated to Jerry. Before the music started, Lesh gave a heartfelt speech about Garcia. We came across audio and video of the Grateful Dead / Furthur bassist’s touching dedication to his late band mate.
Audio (includes entire show):
And here’s a transcription of the speech…
Well, good evening to you all. Welcome to a very special evening. It’s always wonderful when people and the community come together to make music and elevate themselves in whatever way they can, and that’s partly why we’re here tonight, but also we’re here to honor, really, the memory of a dear friend, a brother, a wonderful human being, and so in that light, I wrote a little something, and I’m gonna share it with you.
Jerry, he would’ve been 70 years old today. And even now, after 17 years, I half-expect every time I come in here or walk on a stage, I half-expect to see him walk up and say in that silvery elf voice of his, “hey man, what’s going on.” His presence is sometimes really palpable, and sometimes it’s not, but he has found ways to act on this plane a couple of times since his transition.
And one time, we were playing along, and we had Ryan Adams with us, and he was playing Jerry’s guitar Wolf for a charity thing, and we were playing along, and all of a sudden everything went off, except Wolf. And then there was tonight. I was trying to print this thing out, and put it on my little teleprompter thingy, as soon as we hit print, as soon as we tried to put it in there, it died.
And you know, Jerry would’ve been maybe a little embarrassed by this, as a lot of us could be, you know, by all the hoopla, but he was a guy with a rare Protean mind, and he had a heart as big and as deep as infinity. I recently encountered a… visionary person who said to me, ‘you must choose the path of love in everything you do.’ And I thought that Jerry wouldn’t have had to choose that path, because it chose him, from the get-go.
And ever since I first met him, I never knew him to act towards anyone with anything but the kindest empathy and compassion and respect and love. Even if he didn’t like what you were doing, or thought maybe you were playing too loud, or didn’t want you to bug him or something, he would let you know. But it was always with love, and somehow that comes through every relationship, or every moment that I had with him.
When Jerry invited me to join the band, it was the best thing that ever happened to me — up to that point. Not just because I had always wanted to play music with him. But I was a trumpet player, and trumpet and acoustic guitar didn’t really go well together. And I didn’t think we wanted to bring mariachi into it. You know, I knew Jerry for 35 years, 5 or 6 years before the band started. And he created not just a body of work, or an astronomical number of moments of grace with the music, but a kind of invisible landscape of harmony and spiritual love, which shines through still, and we now can access that and live in that realm, when we get together and play this music, if we’re lucky. So I think that’s great.
So I still miss him terribly, his warmth of heart, and his vast range of interests; his wicked sense of humor. But at the same time, every time we kick into one of his tunes, I feel like what I just said, that we are entering that landscape, that realm of harmony and love that he brought with him, and he left it here with us, and I think he’d be very pleased, even if he might not admit it, to see how this community has taken that message, or that experience of love and harmony, and brought it out into the world.
I think it’s wonderful what you have done with this. And he also wasn’t the type of guy to make much of himself, like I said he’d probably be embarrassed, or worse, at this whole thing. I do think he would’ve been proud of, as I said, the way this community has taken his vision, if you will, which I have to say, the vision came from the community as well as from Jerry, as always with what we do it’s a collaborative effort. Because without the Haight-Ashbury experience, I don’t think any of this would ever–the music would’ve pointed in another direction, without that community. And so we ended up playing for the community.
But I do think he would’ve been particularly tickled to see young musicians like Ross, Grahame, and Brian and other ones playing this music so easily and taking it further as well. And he would also have been really pleased to see the multigenerational audience that has arisen. So I guess that’s mostly what I have to say right now, except for Happy Birthday Jerry.
[Hat Tip - Kanada Kev]