He’s Gone for 25 Years and Nothing’s Gonna Bring Him Back.

Jerry & Lonny

25 years ago was a very bad week for my childhood idols. On Wednesday August 9, 1995 Jerry Garcia passed away. And then on Sunday August 13, 1995 Mickey Mantle passed away as well.

Today’s tribute is for Jerry Garcia, the founder and spiritual leader of the Grateful Dead.

By definition, you need to be “somebody” to be in the Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, and Jerry was indeed somebody. He was just 53 years old when he passed away of a heart attack. He lived a hard 53 years and he looked 20 years older when he passed.

Jerry Garcia was the lead guitarist of my favorite band, the Grateful Dead, and played guitar like I never heard before. I remember spending many hours of my Rutgers college years listening to their music. Jerry was the spiritual leader of the band, and his guitar style was legendary. Years later I’m still a Dead Head and follow the Dead incarnations whenever possible. Alas, Jerry was also a severe diabetic and a heroin addict and his death from a heart attack at age 53 in 1995 was hardly a surprise.

I’ve seen the Grateful Dead and their various incarnations 100+ times which still puts me on the low end of zealot Deadheads. Half of the shows I attended were in the 70s. But I remember listening to their music (and playing their music as a DJ on my college station WRSU) at Rutgers in the early 70s. I remember the excitement of hearing new music from Workingman’s Dead, American Beauty, and Europe ’72. And back then I still appreciated the “older” (late 60s) Dead albums as well.

In fact, my first experience with the Grateful Dead was walking into a friend’s dorm room at Rutgers and hearing Saint Stephen from Live Dead:

Saint Stephen with a rose, in and out of the garden he goes,
Country garden in the wind and the rain,
Wherever he goes the people all complain.

Whoa! Nothing like I had ever heard before. They had me at “Saint”.

As a marketer I’ve also come to appreciate the Grateful Dead over the years for their genius. They understood “social media” long before the technology existed. They understood sharing, community and engagement. And it was and has always been genuine.

Jerry’s long gone. But the music of the Grateful Dead lives on. Thanks to him.

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