Jerry Garcia would have been 72 years old today. I want to avoid going on about the usual stuff that has been written about Jerry and the Grateful Dead but I want to hit these points:
No one sounds like him. You can recognize his guitar playing almost immediately. Guitar players in that category are few and far between.
The breadth of his music is vast. From Appalachian folk ballads to honky-tonk country to R&B to outer space. He went down many different roads and took us with him.
Many of the songs he wrote with Robert Hunter are things of beauty. “Wharf Rat”, “Comes A Time”, “Ripple”, “Brown Eyed Women”, “Friend Of The Devil”, “Uncle John’s Band”, “The Wheel” and there are many more. His songs feel like they are part of a tradition yet at the same time, move that tradition forward.
His music served as a portal through which I became aware of John Coltrane and Bill Monroe, Charles Ives and Jimmy Reed, Bobby Blue Bland and Miles Davis. Wow!
The clips below are from the Merle Saunders album “Fire Up”. This album preceded the “Live At The Keystone” record and because it was billed primarily as a Merle Saunders album featuring Jerry Garcia and Tom Fogerty, it didn’t get that much attention. It’s also a pretty uneven album but when it’s good, it’s smokin’. . .
First up is a instrumental take of the Soul Survivors’ song “Expressway To Your Heart”. I think this is some of Garcia’s best guitar playing in a studio setting. Ever wonder what Jerry would sound like in a funky soul jazz combo? Well, here you go.
Next is their cover of the Ray Charles tune “Lonely Avenue”. There is a fierceness to his playing that should dispel the naysayers. Great vocals from Jerry as well.
Finally, a really cool interview with Jerry that was done for the mini-series “The History of Rock ‘N’ Roll”.
Happy Birthday Jerry. Thank you.