Jerome John Garcia (“Jerry”) died 17 years ago today. For me, and for throngs of Jerry fans everywhere, it is a sad day. August 9 will always carry with it a somber note, a tinge of the blues evocative of some of Jerry’s more melancholy tunes, like Morning Dew or Stella Blue.
For those that don’t like Jerry/The Grateful Dead or understand the appeal, I can only offer one possible line of debate. When you turn on the radio, depending on the station, you hear the same songs over and over again. And what’s worse, generally speaking, you hear the same boring version of said song. Top 40 is the worst offender, bordering on criminal (how many times can you listen to the same friggin’ Adele, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj or Cold Play song?), but all genres have a standard cue of 50 to 100 songs that their affiliated stations play non-stop, on a virtual continuous loop.
The Grateful Dead offer a song catalog of nearly 700 songs. This doesn’t even include the songs side project bands such as the Jerry Garcia Band (JGB) add to the mix. Furthermore, because the Dead are a touring band that played more than 2,300 shows, pretty much every song in that catalog has many versions.
So Sirius/XM radio station 23 is incredible because they play the full archives of a band that amassed the thickest songbook in the industry. Even though you are wont to hear Sugar Magnolia, Playin’ In the Band, Truckin’ or Jack Straw (among others) quite often, chances are, each time you hear the song in a given month, or even year, it will be a unique version of the song. How you like me now Ryan Seacrest?
And Jerry and his bands were intriguing A) because they played great music; and, B) because you never knew what they would play when you saw them live due to their vast catalog and fearless approach to both writing original songs and covering artists across all genres of music.
A few notes:
Jerry played nearly 3,200 live shows over the course of his lifetime as part of 12 separate entities. Not one of these live shows ever fell on August 9. This is amazing considering the date had no real relevance to Jerry (though it certainly does now to his fans, family and friends) and that he played enough to have just about crammed 9 different shows into every date. So not only is August 9 a terrible day in Grateful Dead history for the obvious reason, but also was a rare date that never had any positive Dead “spin.” And keep in mind that attending even the worst Dead (or JGB) show was better than pretty much anything else you could have done on any particular day.
If you want to troll the net to prove my claim wrong, you may come across two separate shows Jerry may have played, one on August 9, 1969 as part of the New Riders of the Purple Sage, and the other on August 9, 1974 with Merl Saunders. Please note the fine print in the links I attached to each date above (the lostlivedead blog offers a decent argument that the New Riders played a run of shows at the Matrix in 1969 but not conclusive evidence that August 9 was among the show dates, and under the Notes section of the 1974 Merl show, pay attention to the fact that this show was likely played a day or two later, and again, no substantial proof has ever materialized to prove otherwise).
Last but not least:
My wife’s birthday happens to fall on August 9. Since we met, her happiness has always taken precedence over the anniversary of the death of one of my idols. As upsetting as the date once was to me, the fact that the love of my life was born on that same date has changed everything for me. There is positive significance to this date, and I recognize that my life is better because of August 9. You see, my wife is my silver lining of August 9…Jerry was the touch of grey…and we all will get by, and we’ll survive.
And just for fun, I encourage you to read this article.
Have a great day and thanks for reading,