Collaboration: Jerry Garcia
Posted on January 14 2019
In the music world — not to mention the art world and the counterculture of 1960s California — Jerry Garcia is a legend. Born in San Francisco in 1942, he moved with his family around California throughout the 40s and 50s, experimenting with music and art.
In 1961, Garcia was in a car with several friends of his when they hit a guardrail at around 90 mph, flipping the car and sustaining major injuries. The accident was a pivotal moment for Garcia, who later said, "That's where my life began. Before then I was always living at less than capacity. I was idling. That was the slingshot for the rest of my life. It was like a second chance. Then I got serious." He decided to dedicate himself to the guitar, taking a step back from his love of drawing and painting.
Garcia played music with a constantly-evolving cast of fellow musicians, initially calling themselves Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions, then the Warlocks. They soon discovered that another band — which would later become the Velvet Underground — was already using the name, so Garcia opened a dictionary in search of a new name and found the phrase “grateful dead.”
“Grateful dead” referred to a person, or his angel, who expressed gratitude to the person that arranged their funeral. "I didn't like it really, I just found it to be really powerful,” said Garcia. “Weir didn't like it, Kreutzmann didn't like it and nobody really wanted to hear about it.” Despite the band’s initial dislike of the name, it caught on and soon became their official title.
For thirty years, Garcia was the lead guitarist and de facto front man of the Grateful Dead, composing some of the bands most famous songs and becoming known for his long, soulful guitar solos. The band became known for their improvisation, building fame on their ability to play the same song differently every time. The band toured almost constantly from 1965 until Garcia’s death in 1995, playing over 2300 shows in that span.
In the 1980s, having set aside his art career to pursue music, Garcia decided to rekindle his interest in drawing and painting. He worked in drawings, etchings, and watercolors, often signing and selling art pieces at Grateful Dead shows and carrying small notebooks on which he made sketches wherever he toured.
Jerry Garcia was a cornerstone of American arts and culture for generations, and his artwork lets us peek into the mind of one of the country’s most iconic musicians. His art is widely varied, from the playful to the profound, as Garcia’s mood and outlook shifted through his life.
At Grassroots CA, we’ve partnered with Jerry’s daughter Trixie to bring you original artwork from Jerry Garcia himself. We’ve taken great care through the design and production process to ensure that his style and vision are properly honored and to make sure that, though Jerry left us 20 years ago, his legacy can live on.