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Jerry Garcia: 1942-1995: Musician

Inducted Into Hall Of Fame

During the 1990s Garcia experienced several artistic triumphs. He attended numerous sessions at David Grisman's basement studio, resulting in several highly regarded acoustic albums. In 1994 the Grateful Dead was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On Valentine's Day Garcia married Deborah Koons, an old friend and filmmaker. Despite his successes, Garcia continued to battle both health and drug problems.

In 1992 Garcia collapsed from exhaustion. "His weight had ballooned, and he had no energy," McNally wrote. "On tour he would ask people to carry his rather light briefcase up the stage stairs for him." In 1995 he checked himself into the Betty Ford Clinic in Rancho Mirage, California, but left after two weeks to celebrate his 53rd birthday. A week later he entered a private clinic in San Francisco. At around four A.M. on August 9th, a security guard noticed that Garcia had stopped snoring. He was pronounced dead, and the cause of death was listed as a heart attack.

Garcia's legacy, like that of John Lennon or Elvis, is difficult to assess because it has continued to grow after the musician's death. In San Francisco the mayor flew a tie-die flag at half-mast, and vigils were held in cities throughout the United States. Bob Dylan, Ornette Coleman, and President Clinton paid tribute to Garcia. Grateful Dead Productions continued to release live recordings from the vault, and Grisman's Acoustic Disc label issued several posthumous albums along with a film titled Grateful Dawg. "Because he saw life as a long jam session leading to harmony or anarchy, he died—long after he might have, long before he should have," wrote Richard Corliss in Time. "But as a force for good music and good vibes, Garcia can go to heaven and keep on truckin'. Like the song says, he will survive."

Selected discography

(With the Grateful Dead) Workingman's Dead, Warner, 1970.

(With the Grateful Dead) American Beauty, Warner, 1970.

Garcia, Warner, 1971.

(With New Riders of the Purple Sage) New Riders of the Purple Sage, Columbia, 1971.

(With Old and In the Way) Old and In the Way, Rykodisc, 1975.

Reflections, Grateful Dead, 1976.

(With Jerry Garcia Band) Cats Under the Stars, Arista, 1978.

(With Jerry Garcia Band) Almost Acoustic, Grateful Dead, 1989.

(With David Grisman) Jerry Garcia/David Grisman, Acoustic Disc, 1991.



McNally, Dennis, A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead, Broadway Books, 2002, pp. 25, 378, 556, 592.


Newsweek, August 21, 1995, p. 46.

People, September 1, 1995, p. 26.

Time, August 21, 1995, p. 60.


"Jerry Garcia," All Music Guide, www.allmusic.com (January 3, 2003).

"Jerry Garcia," Biography Resource Center, www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC (January 3, 2003).

—Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: E(mily) R. Frank (1967-) Biography - Personal to Martha Graham (1893–1991) BiographyJerry Garcia: 1942-1995: Musician Biography - Traded In Accordion For Guitar, Developed Love Of Folk Music, Settled In San Francisco, Life With The Grateful Dead