Jerry Garcia: In Memoriam
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 1995, Volume 2, #8
Written by John Metzger
For nearly a month, I have been trying to complete this newsletter, and it's no easier today than when I first heard the news of Jerry's death. I was sitting at work when I got a call from a couple of co-workers who haven't the foggiest idea what the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia mean to me. At first, I found the whole thing difficult to believe and spent most of the day piddling away at my computer, accomplishing next to nothing while trying to obtain some semblance of peace with my feelings.
As the day wound on, friends and family called and further confirmed this sad news. By midnight, reality began to set in. He's gone, and nothin's gonna bring him back.
Not enough can be said about Jerry. His words and music touched so many people and influenced many, many musicians worldwide. Yet he was as humble as can be. In one interview, he said he just wanted to be remembered as a competent guitarist.
Jerry, you were more than competent. I've never met you, but yet you have had such a tremendous influence on my life both musically and spiritually. From the first notes of my first Grateful Dead show I was hooked. The people that you brought together shared the most important thing in the world, love. It was this love of life, love of music, love of the world, and love of each other that immediately captured my attention.
Right from the start, one show just wasn't enough. I followed you from that wonderful JFK Stadium show on July 7, 1989 to Giants Stadium. Your words and music touched my soul and managed to soothe it. Over the course of 34 Grateful Dead and 3 Jerry Garcia Band shows, you never once failed to put my life in perspective and give me the strength to carry-on.
Over the past six years of following the Grateful Dead, I've learned to see through the eyes of the world. I've discovered who I am and what I can be. I've learned to stand up for what I believe in and to strive for balance in all aspects of life. I've learned to travel the highways of my mind and find peace with myself and the world.
I have always been enthralled with the world of music, but the Grateful Dead have broadened my appreciation of sonic harmony tremendously. You taught me that music is so much more than just playing a bunch of notes. Anyone who puts in the time can rattle off a technically competent guitar solo. You tackled the guitar with your unique banjo style and combined this amazing talent with unfettered inspiration.
You taught me that music is the outflow of the soul of the musician. Jerry, it seems as if you yourself understood that more and more over the years. The ballads were often the most inspirational part of the show. You learned to sing from your heart and soul and despite the huge stadiums you were forced to play, you managed to deeply touch every single person who was willing to listen. That power and influence is truly an incredible gift.
I cannot even begin to tell you how much I appreciate your willingness to share that gift and give the world a window through which to view your soul. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to do that, and yet you managed to work your magic night after night, often turning that window into a mirror which reflected back my own soul.
I am still finding it difficult to listen to some of the music you have left behind without tears bursting forth from my eyes, but I know that some day the pain will subside. Life will certainly go on, but it definitely won't be the same. For the moment, a huge void exists, one that won't ever be filled completely, but instead will be patched with fond memories of those magical, musical excursions.
I don't know if one man has ever been so loved by so many people he has never met. We will all truly miss you, Jerry. Right now, you're probably looking down on us from backstage at Bill Graham's latest venture, wondering just what the fuss is all about. I do hope this helps to explain it, at least from one person's perspective.
Next time I'm in California, I'll look for you in the redwood and sequoia forests as a young sapling yearning for the light way up above your head. You know our love will not fade away. We will miss you tremendously and think of you daily, wandering those so many roads of heaven. I hope you've found something to soothe your soul. Thank you for a real good time.
Copyright © 1995 The Music Box