Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Jerry Garcia (born Jerome John Garcia), (August 1, 1942 - August 9, 1995) was famous as guitarist and primary singer of the psychedelic rock band the Grateful Dead, though his extensive career involved many other projects. He has become one of the most studied 20th Century rock musicians. Garcia started on the piano, moved on to the guitar, and eventually became a master on many stringed instruments, despite the loss of his right middle finger just below the first knuckle while chopping wood in his youth.
Garcia was born in San Francisco, California. Though he had a keen and insightful mind, Jerry dropped out of high school in 1960 and enlisted in the Army. Garcia was still spending his hours at his leisure, picking up the acoustic guitar. The rigors and the structure of Army life did not appeal to him and he was discharged after accruing two courts martial and eight AWOLs. Upon returning to the Bay Area, Garcia and a poet named Robert Hunter teamed up to make music. Later, Hunter would become the main lyricist for the Grateful Dead. Garcia joined a local bluegrass and folk band called Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions, whose membership also included Bob Weir and Ron "Pigpen" McKernan. In 1965, this group evolved into the Warlocks, which would in turn become the Grateful Dead later in 1965.
Jerry Garcia's electric-guitar playing melded elements from the various kinds of music that had interested him. Echoes of bluegrass, early rock (like Chuck Berry), contemporary blues, country & western, and modern jazz could be heard in Jerry's style, which varied somewhat according to the song or instrumental he was contributing to.
Young people were attracted to Jerry not only because of his talent and his tendency to good cheer and general goodwill, but for his obvious intelligence, libertarian sort of attitude, and willingness to speak his mind. Though he was widely regarded as a kind of guru figure in the San Francisco psychedelic scene, Jerry couldn’t take the role seriously himself.
From 1965 to 1995, the Grateful Dead toured almost constantly, developing a fan base known as deadheads, renowned for their intensity and devotion. Some fans dedicated their lives to the band, following the Grateful Dead from concert to concert, making a living by selling handmade goods, arts, crafts and other items in the parking lots of venues before the shows. It was no secret that drugs, especially psychedelics, were condoned in this scene. Jerry’s tendency to use hard, addictive drugs was evident to those who knew him by the mid 1970s.
In addition to the Grateful Dead (who very frequently toured for long periods), Garcia had numerous side projects, the most notable being the Jerry Garcia Band . He was also involved with various acoustic projects such as Old and in the Way and other bluegrass bands, including collaborations with noted bluegrass mandolinist David Grisman. The documentary "Grateful Dawg" chronicles the deep friendship between Jerry Garcia and David Grisman.
Having studied art at the California Academy of Art , Garcia made a second career out of painting. A series of neck ties based on those paintings has been quite lucrative. The popularity of the ties might be attributed to their wild patterns and bright colors. Even in 2005, ten years after Garcia's death, new styles and designs continue to be sold at high-end men's stores and department stores.
Garcia was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
Jerry Garcia died on August 9, 1995 of heart trouble. Garcia, who struggled with drug addiction for much of his adult life, was staying at a drug rehabilitation center at the time. On his passing, he was honored by President Clinton as being "an American icon". Memorial services were held in Golden Gate Park on August 13, 1995. Along with the band members, his family and friends, thousands of fans were present, many singing and playing in drum circles.
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