Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Perfect Eulogy from Dylan to Jerry




There’s no way to measure his greatness or magnitude as a person or as a player. I don’t think any eulogizing will do him justice. He was that great, much more than a superb musician, with an uncanny ear and dexterity. He’s the very spirit personified of whatever is Muddy River country at its core and screams up into the spheres. He really had no equal. To me he wasn’t only a musician and friend, he was more like a big brother who taught and showed me more than he’ll ever know. There’s a lot of spaces and advances between The Carter Family, Buddy Holly and, say, Ornette Coleman, a lot of universes, but he filled them all without being a member of any school. His playing was moody, awesome, sophisticated, hypnotic and subtle. There’s no way to convey the loss. It just digs down really deep...BOB DYLAN 



Every time I read this press release from Dylan the day after Garcia’s passing (8-10-95) I get choked up because in one paragraph, Dylan captures the essence of Jerry. It’s an elegant portrait, one that any fan of Garcia’s loves. Each thought from Dylan states something essential to what made Jerry Garcia such a beloved musician and person.

There’s no way to measure his greatness or magnitude as a person or as a player. For those who loved Jerry’s music, we never needed validation of his greatness. He never won Grammy Awards, or was voted the greatest guitar player in Rolling Stone. Just having the exquisite musical taste to enjoy his music is an eternal blessing. In his thirty years of public service with the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia Band, he gave more of himself to his fans than any other musician, with the possible exception of Dylan. Work eight days a week and baby give it all to you. That’s what love will for you. That’s what love will make you do. Dylan and Garcia were friends for twenty-five years, but their friendship grew deeper during the last ten years of Jerry’s life. For those of us who never met Jerry, we got to know him intimately threw his music, which was filled with compassion, inspiration, and wisdom.

I don’t think any eulogizing will do him justice. Many brilliant and kind souls tried, but Dylan’s press release came as close to doing Jerry justice as anything.

He was that great, much more than a superb musician, with an uncanny ear and dexterity. He’s the very spirit personified of whatever is Muddy River country at its core and screams up into the spheres. There are a lot of superb musicians, but there was only one Jerry. From Old Weird America and the Delta Blues to anything that was authentic Americana, Jerry weaved through this terrain and glorified the best of that expansive milieu.

He really had no equal. Amen.

To me he wasn’t only a musician and friend, he was more like a big brother who taught and showed me more than he’ll ever know: Dylan was a year older than Jerry, and if anything, Jerry probably saw Dylan as the big brother. I think what Dylan is getting at here is the calming warmth, patience, and trust that Garcia exhibited. Garcia had a knack for trusting those around him for good or ill. Throughout his career he had faith in the members of his bands, and the extended family that surrounded him. Dylan seemed to trust in nobody but himself, but that changed after his time touring with the Grateful Dead. He adopted the non-stop Grateful Dead touring philosophy, and he’s employed bassist Tony Garnier for the last twenty-eight years, drummer George Receli has been there for fifteen years, and lead guitarist Charlie Sexton has been with Bob for more than ten years. Jerry was a reliable friend and calming influence during a turbulent time in Dylan’s life. When Dylan couldn’t find the essence and joy of his own songs, he turned to Garcia, because he knew Jerry had tuned into the spirit and essence of Dylan’s songs when he covered them.

There’s a lot of spaces and advances between The Carter Family, Buddy Holly and, say, Ornette Coleman, a lot of universes, but he filled them all without being a member of any school. Garcia always put his own distinctive stamp on songs that he covered, elongating, magnifying, and celebrating the creation without copying it. He explored the nooks and crannies around, and within, the melodies, hooks, and riffs. Time constraints were disregarded when Jerry was covering a tune he loved. He never tried to imitate or show up the original artist, he just wanted to share his passion for the song. Everything Jerry played was an original even if it was a cover, and it always had a distinctive style that excluded being a member of any school.

His playing was moody, awesome, sophisticated, hypnotic and subtle. Those are the perfect adjectives to describe Garcia’s playing. In that regard, he’s more like Miles Davis than any other musician.

There’s no way to convey the loss. It just digs down really deep. There will never be another Jerry Garcia. Just think of the pleasure he would have had covering Dylan songs from albums like Time Out of Mind and Love & Theft. Somewhere in God’s heaven Jerry heard Dylan’s words (eulogy) and he’s still smiling. And fans of Jerry are still smiling because he left us a treasure trove of music that will continue to inspire us for as long as we live.

6 comments:

Unknown said...

Spot on, beautiful

Nigel said...

Thank you... I have always treasured Dylan's quote, but you have added depth and weight.

august_west said...

Always wondered what Dylan thought about Jerry ... but always thought he must know Jerry covers his stuff the best!

Unknown said...

Sempre achei Jerry Garcia, entre outros, o melhor intérprete das canções de Bob Dylan, I Shall Be Released,em versão ao vivo,é a mais linda e profunda.

pd said...

As a long time Dylan fan, it's nice to hear a Garcia fan elaborate on the Dylan/Garcia eulogy.
When I first read it, it took my breath away. I've never seen Bob do a eulogy for anyone, so you know Jerry was a very special person in Bob's life.

BrendanW said...

Still hurts. This really is beautiful. I love the pics of the two of them at Highgate. Thank you!

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