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The Grateful Dead's Heart and Soul, He Became the Beloved Free Spirit Behind Rock's Great Odyssey
It's no surprise that the death of Garcia—of a heart attack, at 53—provoked elaborate displays of grief from hordes of his tie-dyed fans. But millions who wouldn't ordinarily be counted among the Grateful faithful were touched too. Stockbrokers. Politicians (Sen. Patrick Leahy recalled taking Garcia to the Senate Dining Room as his guest). Lithuanian athletes. Teenagers who think of psychedelia as a style, and not a path to heightened consciousness. In ways obvious or tangential—as a musician, bemused '60s' icon, guerrilla entrepreneur or shambling philosopher—Jerry Garcia made people happier.
He was, as his concerned family and friends had been aware for years, all too human. With a guitar in hand, playing the music he loved, Garcia seemed like a wise, grinning Buddha. Privately, he struggled for much of his adult life with drug problems. In the end, his weakened heart gave out.
Wherever Jerry Garcia is now, he's probably dumbfounded by all the hoopla. Despite recognition from his peers, he was modest about his talent and amazed by the Grateful Dead's 30-year ride. "I feel like we've been getting away with something," he once said, "ever since there were more people in the audience than there were onstage."
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