09 August 2011

THE MUSIC AND PRESTON BLACK Jerome John "Jerry" Garcia, August 1, 1942 – August 9, 1995


     Jerry was the most fatherly of all my fathers. Like, I could see him coming to pick me up from school in that old black t-shirt, maybe even driving a shitty old Jeep like the one me and Pauly drove. Jerry as my father never said anything harsh, and when I fucked up he disciplined me firmly, but never harshly.
     In my wishes he taught me to play the guitar. He'd watch patiently as I fumbled through scales, my mind fighting for control over my fingers.
     Jerry sang a few lines over and over, looping like a digital delay. He sang, "I went to the levee but the devil got there first, said you can run all night but you can't outrun a curse."
     I thought he was talking about my dad. I asked him what I should do.
     "The accuser of brethren doesn't want us livin' Godly lives," he said, wiping his hands on his black t-shirt. For a second it felt sunny and cool. I assumed it was Marin County because the light looked like the light in all those old Grateful Dead family pictures. May as well have been heaven. He pulled his beard and said, "He don't want us living patient and lovely lives."
     He was talking about my dad, so I listened, waiting for him to get to the good part. But after waiting a long time, knowing morning would be here soon, I got direct. "Is the song true? Should I be worried?"
     Jerry strummed a banjo. As he plucked he said, "Satan's already been defeated, he just don't know it yet. He'll soon get all he has coming to him. Woe to my children for the devil's coming down on you with great wrath, because he knows that he ain't got but a short time."
     In the hospital room the air kicked on, chilling the sweat that had formed on my skin. I folded my arms over my t-shirt, a shirt I had when I was little. Optimus Prime held up a laser pistol with one hand. With the other he waved with a half pointed finger, like Bumblebee, Jazz and Bluestreak would appear on the horizon any second to kick Megatron's whiny ass. The red shirt, worn thin and soft by thousands of washings had been my favorite.
     I asked, "What do I have to do? To save myself?"
Nurses and attendants came and went, but they all ignored me. I figured Jerry didn't want to give me my answer while they were in the room. Then the sun went down. The room got colder. Light came from the hall through a tiny sliver beneath the door. Steady blue light from his heart monitor illuminated his silhouette on the bed. I got really tired just sitting in the chair waiting. I stopped paying attention to what went on in the room and my mind drifted other places. By the time I realized his heart monitor had stopped making noise it was too late to do anything.

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August 9, 1995, my brother and I were patching rafts in the big red building behind Laurel Highlands River Tours. Must've been listening to DVE to have heard the news. I popped AMERICAN BEAUTY into the cassette player. Then WORKINGMAN'S DEAD. Then AMERICAN BEAUTY. As the other guides trickled back in from their trips they'd say "Black Peter" or "Box of Rain" and I'd tell them what'd happened. The rest of the day went by like that--guys hanging out until the tape flip, taking turns breaking the news to guys coming in from later trips.

Here's a show from April 23, 1977. The day my brother was born. I thought it was kind of cosmic. And they open with "Sugaree", which I was really in the mood to hear.

Stream it at Archive.org.

Grateful Dead, April 23, 1977
Springfield Civic Center, Springfield, MA

Source: Soundboard with audience patches
Lineage: SBD-> MR-> DAT-> CD, with AUD patch on reel splice (FOB Sony ECM99A mics-> Sony TC152-> DAT-> CD via Darrin Sacks)

Minglewood Blues
Ramble On Rose
Me & My Uncle
Row Jimmy
It's All Over Now
Scarlet Begonias->Fire On The Mountain
Estimated Prophet
The Music Never Stopped
Help on the Way->Slipknot->Franklin's Tower->Around & Around->GDTRFB->Not Fade Away E: One More Saturday Night


  1. Very nice. My godson was born in January 2006 and he was named after Jerry Garcia.

  2. That's a great namesake. That's a pretty heavy thing, to be named after somebody. And he's pretty luck his parents weren't fans of Alice Cooper, or something like that.