My Friend Jerry
“Talk to me, David…you should talk to me a little bit in my solo…” Garcia was asking me to converse with him musically during the guitar solo he’d been playing after the first verse of Blue Yodel #9, the Jimmie Rodgers classic that we had never played together before.
“Hi, Jerry, nice solo you’re playing,” I quipped. We were kidding around, exchanging light-hearted banter like we always did when we got together in the small recording room that used to be my garage.
Decibel Dave slated “Take 1,” but after the first verse we stopped, not quite sure whether Garcia would sing a long or short yodel. “The tempo’s a little quick, too,” Jerry commented. “Down from the bottom, brother, say way down from Dixie now,” and immediately kicked off a slower, more laid-back groove. “That’s it, that’s the feel. Nothing is moving on the river.” It had been over a year since Jerry and I had hit any licks together, and this was going to be fun.
Fun was always at the heart of the matter with Jerry, and now, three weeks and a thousand universes later, the notion that my world, and the world of countless others, will be decidedly less fun is painfully settling in. Of course, Jerry desperately wouldn’t want me or us to feel this way. I’m certain of that. Every fiber of his being was dedicated to the awesome task of making us all feel better, and he always did. He had those special unique qualities that fused his great creativity with his even greater humanity, tempered always with that sense of humor…fun.
Let’s not confuse the issue, though. Jerome Garcia was a great leader: musically, morally, and spiritually. He didn’t want it, he didn’t seek it, he didn’t ask for it, he may not have even liked it, but he carried that enormous weight with grace, dignity, and a huge sense of responsibility to his fellow man, particularly those less fortunate. If you needed help, he was there. Of course, as we now know, it was Jerry himself who needed help. Although he was getting it, the years had already taken their toll, and that long, strange trip is over. But is it really? Not for us: Jerry’s kids. We need to take his message to heart, find our own creativity and our own path, and help try and make this world a little better, which will be just a little harder for us now. This is our challenge, which I feel we can meet if we can all take a little piece of him with us. We all need to become a little more Jerry-like and move on down the road. Just one more thing I thought you’d want to know – Jerry died with a smile on his face.
This passage is an excerpt from GARCIA - A Grateful Celebration, originally published in 1995 by Dupree's Diamond News. To learn more about Dupree's Diamond News or how to obtain a copy of GARCIA - A Grateful Celebration, click here.