“Reflections” 8/9/11 (Jerry Garcia 1942-1995)


noun \ˈle-gə-sē\

something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past <the>legacy of the ancient philosophers></the>

Legacy. The gravity of the word, its shackles, balls and chains are of the heaviest. It’s got the weight of the world to a family or some bond or some force that unites. And now, I am thinking of the legacy of art, of artists, of music and musicians.

On a day like today, a reflective one, somehow it makes it easier to contemplate “legacy”. What legacy is now, what it was, and what might be.

An artist like Jerry Garcia was one that made a substantial impact on my personal life. It was the beginning to a lifetime of music compiled through the history of song, sound, and this dynamic vehicle…Jerry. Sure it was The Dead, but more than that, it was Old & In the Way, Legion of Mary, David Grisman, Reconstruction, JGB, Merl Saunders, to start the list of obvious ‘immediates’. It was Jerry.

As a musician, and fan, it’s incredible how quickly that list extends to become the largest family tree ever constructed, with no end. Branches go into Classical worlds, Jazz worlds, R&B, Soul, Funk, Disco, Rock, Country, Pop, Reggae, Americana, Acoustic, Blues, Psychedelic, etc. The artists flow in like you are on a beach, and each crashing wave is a new one: Merle Haggard, Bill Monroe, Mozart, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, The Beatles, Jimmy Cliff, Frank Zappa, B.B. King, etc. Sink or swim…

I saw Jerry live a few times – enough to say I got to “hear” Jerry solo. Sure, it wasn’t Winterland 1977, and this wasn’t an Acid Test or a Bill Graham event in the Haight, but it was real. I heard THAT sound, his voice. HIS voice. His voice in his instrument; that one of a kind sound that no guitarist had ever created, or since re-created. Some will argue it was electricity and it’s effects, yet somehow, his acoustic touch sounded exactly the same. There are few guitarists you can say this same thing about. More than that, I heard his singing voice. Sure it was weathered, tired, and old. It was stumbling, and it was lost.  Yet, even in its fragility, there was the absolute purest beauty. Everyone/anyone (who likes Jerry) can recollect that sincerity, soul, and pureness when they talk about his voice.  They can only hope everyone can feel the same way he can sound, about something in life, or the world.

What I mean by legacy, on the anniversary of one of the more substantial legacies, is sort of a wake up call to enjoy every step of the way. What Jerry gave to us, to music, and to the world was another sense of understanding to all of this. You see Jerry was legacy before he even passed. He didn’t join a numbered club; he didn’t recklessly fall as fast as others (while he did slowly fall). So generations like mine got to go see him, and tried to get a taste of the “nostalgia”. That, and we tried to get one or two really great moments where he put everything he had into a solo or a chorus that made the spine-tingle uncontrollably.  This is not about being a “hippie”; this is really about “searching for the sound”.  This is about falling in love with music, and then following its path in every direction on the timeline, and off.

So, I sit, listening to the album “Reflections” at the end of a day filled by listening, remembering, discussing, and “reflecting”. It’s 2011, no major anniversary of Jerry’s passing, but somehow, while the so-called “music business” lies tattered in front of us; splattered across the world like the flailing stock market, the world’s foreign affairs, and any other luring piece of train wreck we can’t stop watching, I find myself enamored by the immortals who walk among us, and can’t help but contemplate the blogs we’ll one day dedicate, the tweets that will one day trend, the turntable.fm and Spotify mega-lists and social networking devices we’ll devote solely to them.

It is there, that I still see a vibrant life for music. I see everlasting fans, and immortal creators. That is forever. Solos everyone can sing, and lyrics that mean everything.

I am reminded of what once was, what is, and what will be. The sounds of immortals rattle the halls of venues all over the world, and STILL DO everyday: Santana, Prince, Elton John, Elvis Costello, Herbie Hancock, Itzhack Perlman, Paco DeLucia, Eric Clapton, Tony Bennett, The Rolling Stones, are some that roll easily off the top of my head. You can still hear Bruce sing “Rosalita”. You can see David Byrne hop on stage with Arcade Fire, or perform the epic catalog he and Brian Eno & The Talking Heads compiled. You can hear Crosby, Still and Nash harmonize into a sound-system and create THAT sound. You can see Stevie Wonder run through a lifetime of originals and others. You can hear Clapton play the blues, Steve Winwood sing “John Barleycorn Must Die”, you can even see Bobby and Phil play…well, something if you wanted to see them play something! You can go to Lincoln Center in NY and see Wynton Marsalis and his big band, or you can see Chick Corea trade blistering solos for the cosmos with John McLaughlin. You can see Larry Coryell in a tiny club, and probably meet Pat Martino if you wanted to.  You can go to Levon Helm’s HOUSE. You can go to Nashville and see nearly anyone up close. You can still see The Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman. I can go on and on…

The artists I talk about are GIANT voices in sea of sound. Their unmistakable sound is worth the price of admission at least once to any music lover. I am talking about the chance to hear “Santana’s guitar” LIVE. Ok, so maybe not the way it was at Woodstock or in Japan in the 70’s – but THAT sound inside a room, is special to hear. The sustain off each note of his guitar; it’s still as alive today as it ever was. It’s worth paying for that Oye Como Va. The same goes for hearing Jack White or seeing him perform. His voice, his energy, his sound on the guitar he’s shredding, the keys he’s smashing or the vocals he’s crushing. The Edge is another force of sound, so so special to hear live in a room.  I am not even trying and I am just cracking the surface at the obvious ones…

People feel the same about Phish, and Trey’s guitar. Maybe right now I may be overexposed to it, but I know one day I will hear it again, maybe even from a mile a way, and say, “That’s Trey.” And not only that, I will get the chills, I will say, “Man, THAT SOUND.” I will nod my head, and think about how no guitar sounded like that before him. No one turned my world upside down and inside out along the adolescent road MORE than him.

I think I will hear Jeff Tweedy sing, and my heart will crumble. Nels’ solo behind Tweedy pleading with you, HER, anyone, IS what the heart wants to say but has no ability to.

Thom Yorke will always cry for me, laugh for me, and make me run a mile when I have no desire to stand up and walk.

You can hear Miles…for miles. It’s the most beautiful and familiar sound, even when it’s atop the surface of some out-fusion and a chaos of rhythm. It’s always water in the desert.

People will talk about seeing Middle Brother at Newport, and “Bowlive” back when Brooklyn was still cool.  People will talk about Jay-Z and Kanye, and Eminem. People will talk about the first time they made out to Ray LaMontagne. Some will tell stories about how they saw Dave Matthews open the H.O.R.D.E. festival with 15 people in attendance. Others might talk about seeing epic Avett Brothers shows in clubs across the world.  People will remember My Morning Jacket at Bonnaroo, and the greatest guitarist they got to see with EVERYONE, Warren Haynes.

On top of which, there are so many artist still to do it, and even more to be discovered. The way in which we encounter and find them may change, but it’s happening everyday. So, I will listen to some 70’s Jerry today, to honor that legacy, and some of the crisper sounding stuff.  Tomorrow, I will dive back into the world creating new sounds by the millisecond. I could say, “Inspiration, move me brightly”, or I could just go with what’s on right now to end this album:

Today, in Reflection, as Jerry sings on “Comes a Time”:

Comes a time

when the

blind man takes your hand

says: don’t you see?

got to make it somehow

on the dreams you still believe

As cliché as it may be, Thank you, Jerry. For taking my hand.


~ by dlottmusic on August 9, 2011.

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