Jerry Garcia

WCD found out about Jerry Garcia from  his 219 students. The class was reading a poem about death . Somebody mentioned the death of Jerry Garcia. And WCD said, with the infinite wariness he reserves for cases in which there is yet another rock star or TV personality about whom everyone except himself and Professor Postelwaite has heard, "Who is Jerry Garcia?" Whereupon the following colloquy. Class: "You haven't heard of JERRY GARCIA?" WCD: "Sorry, sorry." Class: "You have to have heard of Jerry Garcia. He's an old guy, like you."

Since then, under the patient tutelage of Dale Osofsky and Liz Hronkova and other young Deadheads amongst his students, WCD has been learning about Jerry Garcia, much of whose music he finds haunting, and in whose personality and career he finds a genuinely fascinating cultural symbolism.

None of that, though, explains why a Jerry Garcia page now becomes a permanent feature of WCD's Web site. The reason for that is a moment in an interview, just discovered by WCD, in which Jerry Garcia unexpectedly reveals himself as a secret member of the ecole dowling. The moment comes in a Rolling Stone interview (October 31, 1991) in which Jerry Garcia is discussing the death of Brent Mydland, who is supposed to have died of an overdose of heroin and cocaine. But Jerry Garcia's diagnosis is that he died of something much deeper and sadder than that, of the radical spiritual undernourishment that comes from not reading books and talking about ideas. Here is what Jerry Garcia says:

Brent had a deeply self-destructive streak. He didn't have much supporting him in terms of an intellectual life. I mean, I owe a lot of who I am and what I've been and what I've done to the beatniks from the Fifties and to the poetry and art and music I've come in contact with. I feel like I'm part of a continuous line in American culture, of a root. But Brent was from the East Bay, which is one of those places that is like nonculture. There's nothing there. There's no substance, no background. And Brent wasn't a reader, and he hadn't really been introduced to the world of ideas on any level. So a certain part of him was like a guy in a rat cage, running as fast as he could and not getting anywhere. He didn't have any deeper resources.

   My life would be miserable if I didn't have those little chunks of Dylan Thomas and T.S. Eliot. I can't even imagine life without that stuff.

WCD has to admit that he doesn't exactly know what the "East Bay" is, but he does understand that most Americans these days seem to be from there. So he has made a page to say: don't worry, Jerry Garcia, here and there, in the caves and forest clearings of the spirit, scattered members of the ecole are quietly carrying on a survivalist struggle against the Big Emptiness.

For those of you who have come to the Jerry Garcia page to read WCD's exegesis of "Ripple," the great Robert Hunter-Jerry Garcia song that has become a sort of anthem of the souls in the forest clearings, it is not here. It is on David Dodd's Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics site, to which everyone should pay a visit anyway. And to all those who have e-mailed WCD since the essay was posted, let him say (1) thank you, thank you, but (2) he can't answer those questions because he doesn't know enough. He has, however, a squadron of young Deadheads standing by, and they do know all that stuff, and more besides. So write away, and your questions will be handed over to the experts.