Type: Analysis
Pages: 4 | Words: 1180
Reading Time: 5 Minutes

The variety of music genres, singers, composers and songs that exists nowadays results in confusing the performers who deserve to be outstanding personalities, and those who do not. Jerry Garcia contributed immensely to the development of jazz, country and bluegrass music. He also influenced many other musicians, setting for them an example of how to create underground music.

Jerry Garcia was born in California in 1942. His father was Jose Ramon, and his mother’s name was Ruth Marie. Jerome had an elder brother whose name was Clifford. Jose Ramon was originally Spanish. However, his family had emigrated from Spain in 1919, and Jerry’s father decided to stay in America for the rest of his life. Because of this fact, we may state that Garcia had also Spanish, as well as Irish roots. The parents foresaw the musician’s future and called him after a famous composer Jerome Kern. In the age of four, a horrific accident happened to the future musician. While chopping the wood, Clifford unintentionally cut the part of Garcia’s finger. However, this occasion did not put an end to the future musical career. On the other hand, Garcia’s persistence and diligence resulted in achieving impressive results.

Garcia was fond of music since his childhood. In the age of five, he started to take the piano lessons. His family actively supported and encouraged him in his musical inceptions. Moreover, the father who was a professional musician and mother, who sang and played the piano too, set a good example and brought a future musician up in the favorable conditions. However, the situation had considerably changed in 1947 when Garcia’s father drowned while fishing in the Trinity River. In order to keep the family, Ruth Marie got control of her dead husband’s business. She had to work hard in order to provide enough money for the family. At the same moment, Jerry and Clifford moved to their grandparents. This period lasted for five years and considerably influenced Garcia’s musical tastes. His grandmother accustomed him to the country and bluegrass (a form of country) music. Strongly influenced by the following genres of music, he started to play the banjo.

In 1953, Garcia moved to Menlo Park because of his mother’s marriage with Wally Matusiewicz. In Menlo Park Garcia witnessed the unfair outbreaks of racism and anti-Semitism, which he was totally against of. At the age of twelve Garcia was fond of listening to Ray Charles’, B. B. King’s and Chuck Berry’s music. He was also interested in arts. While studying in the San Francisco Art Institute, which he entered in 1957, his works were highly estimated by the teachers. Moreover, he never gave up his interest in music. On the fifteenth birthday, his mother presented him an accordion. However, he was not satisfied with the present as the only Garcia’s wish at that moment was to have an electric guitar. As the result, the accordion was exchanged to the guitar. This episode was a turning point in Garcia’s life.

In 1960, Garcia became the member of the Army, which was a punishment for the stealing of his mother’s car. Such behavior was provoked by the smoking of marijuana. Another incident happened in 1961, when during the terrible car accident Garcia fortunately survived. As the musician would state later, this event served as an awakening for him. After one of his friends died in the same accident and he had almost faced the death himself, he decided to change his further way of living. He devoted himself only to music, thus refusing the painting career. In 1961 Garcia began to organize his future band “The Grateful Dead”. Together with Phil Lesh, the future bassist of the band, Garcia recorded two songs, which were presented to the wide public. In addition to this, Garcia taught other musicians how to play the guitar and banjo.

Despite the changes in Garcia’s life ideas and principles, he always adhered to his principles and musical tastes, on which he was brought up by the parents and grandmother. He continued to play bluegrass music. His only aim was to create the qualitative and professional music. While looking for the supporters who would share his believes and ideas, Garcia moved from one band to another. His searches had finished in 1965, when “The Grateful Dead” was eventually founded.

Garcia had immensely contributed to the fame of the band. He wrote many songs, the most famous of which were “Dark Star” and “Scarlet Begonias”. His talent in the guitar improvisations was obvious too. It was mentioned by the majority of critics and fans that one and the same piece of music was never played in the same way.

In addition to his performance in “The Grateful Dead” Jerry Garcia had other projects too. He was the temporary member of such groups as “The Black Mountain Boys”, “Legion of Mary”, “Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band”, and “Reconstruction”. The choice of the genres, in which Garcia was playing, was mainly influenced by his childish music preferences. He played bluegrass music, rock, contemporary blues, country and western. Garcia was also particularly interested in creating jazz music. His cooperation with the famous jazzmen Merl Saunders and Howard Wales was very productive and effective. Moreover, the collaboration with the famous saxophonist Ornette Coleman in 1988 led to the releasing one of the most significant albums “Blues from the Rainforest”. During his career Garcia released many albums, but the most prominent and famous of them was “Garcia” which appeared in 1972. The following album was the first solo album and consisted of ten songs. The songs included in the album were very different. If the first “Deal” was a rhythmic and upbeat song, the second “Bird Song” was a lyrical and sad melody. “Sugaree” — the third song in the album was composed in the bluegrass style with an impressive chorus. The rest of the songs proved the generic variety of the album too.

At the period of his active partnership with the members of the other groups, the unity of “the Grateful Dead” was under a question. The members of the band were addicted to drugs, and Garcia was not an exception. As a consequence, he had to make the choice between the heroine and the band. The musician desired to prove his devotion to music and agreed to undergo the rehabilitation process in one of the centers. Grateful to his strong will, Garcia managed to give up the habit and in 1986 did not use the drugs anymore. The same age brought another trial — the diabetic coma. Fortunately, Garcia recovered from the illness and in 1987 continued work on the album “In the Dark”. However, in 1992 the symptoms repeated. Since that time, his state of health deterred. In 1995 after a fatal heart attack, Jerry Garcia died.

Jerry Garcia’s fans do not forget their idol even after his death. On the night of the seventieth birthday’s celebration, a tribute concert in honor of the musician was performed. His songs and albums are still the source of inspiration for many talented personalities, who desired to achieve the same results as Garcia did.

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