Jerry Garcia Has Been Gone For 19 Years: How Much Has Music Changed?

Once, when my 11-year-old daughter and I were shopping for ice cream, I quite emphatically informed her that Ben and Jerry’s flavor Cherry Garcia was an ode to legendary Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia. Her reply?

“Who’s that?”

At first I was astounded. And then I was perhaps a little ashamed. How could my daughter have no idea who Jerry Garcia is? I mean, I am a self-professed music addict, after all.

It is true that I was never a big fan of the Grateful Dead, (Gasp! I know, sacrilege!) But before all you proud and dedicated Deadheads hunt me down and burn me at the stake, let me say this:

While I’ve never been a big fan of the Grateful Dead, I’ve always admired and respected the musical chops of all the members of the group, but mostly I’ve always been a big fan of Jerry’s. Jerry was more than a musician. He was an icon, a messenger. Much like poetic lyricists of his time, Jerry Garcia held a certain magic, a certain je ne sais quoi that made his untimely death on this day 19 years ago so tragic.

Rolling Stone posted a tribute to Jerry earlier today to talk about his influence on the artists and the industry that has emerged since his death and had the following to offer on the way that Jerry changed the game for those coming behind him:

Jerry Garcia was painting outside the frame… Jerry had a tremendous sense of purpose… He wasn’t a superficial guy at all. It was a lot of fun to play with him, because he was very accommodating.

In a world full of narcissists, Jerry paved the way for the gracious, almost as if he was advising to be grateful for what you’ve got in order to get more of what you want. His demeanor was so unassuming that he proved that you don’t always need to be boisterous in order to be a leader. Jerry’s life showcased his humanness and leaves an example to the generations about how important it is to honor your health before it is too late.

Back when Jerry Garcia was alive and well, the music industry was much different than it is today. There was no such thing as a digital download back then, and auto-tune had not become such a prolifically used tool in the recording studio. Of course, when Jerry Garcia first began making music, there wasn’t even a MTV or a VH1, much less a YouTube channel to watch his videos. Success in the industry was as much a grind as it is today, but artists like Jerry Garcia didn’t have the luxury of a digital revolution to help expand their enterprise.

Yet, despite not having all these things at his nine fingertips, Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead still live on as perpetual legends in an industry that has become overrun by the digital revolution.

And that is something worth teaching our children about.