There has never been an artist quite like Jerry Garcia. The reluctant leader of the Grateful Dead, Garcia had an air about him, a charismatic magnetism that drew people into his orbit, made them want to be close to him, to follow him. That’s part of the reason Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters took to Jerry and his ragtag band of “Warlocks” more than 50 years ago. It’s part of what garnered the Dead the most rabid fan base in the history of popular music for decades, prompting multiple generations of American youths to drop out of society and follow him–quite literally to the ends of the Earth. It’s part of what inspired Deadheads to begin to deify him, to put him on a metaphysical pedestal and, tragically, push his inner struggles with drug dependency to their breaking point.
More than just a generation-defining musical talent, Jerry Garcia was a one-in-a-million human being, possessing the rare ability to captivate peoples’ attention with his every word, his every note, his every smile. Though he is frequently–and rightfully–hailed for his incredible ability as a guitarist and a composer, his powers of emotional persuasion were never more completely on display than when he sang from his soul, his subtly-imperfect yet brightly-moving voice floating delicately above the music. To mark the emotional anniversary of Jerry’s untimely passing today, here are five of his most moving vocal performances with the Grateful Dead:
“Standing On The Moon” – JFK Stadium – Philadelphia, PA – 7/7/89 (via YouTube user Indifference):
“Brokedown Palace” – Oakland Auditorium – Oakland, CA – 12/31/80 (via YouTube user Music Vault):
“Morning Dew“ – Lyceum Theater, London, UK – 5/23/72 (from Europe ’72)
“Stella Blue“ – Winterland Arena – San Francisco, CA – 10/17/74 (via YouTube user friscobay01):
“Ripple“ – Radio City Music Hall – New York, NY – 10/31/80 (via YouTube user Music Vault):
Rest easy, big guy. We miss you.
[Cover photo via Billboard]