SAN RAFAEL (CBS SF) — Dead Heads are calling 2015 the year of the Grateful Dead, 20 years after Jerry Garcia’s death, 50 years after the band’s founding, and now the final tour and final concert for a band that has become part of the fabric of America’s counter-culture. And now, long lost interviews with the late band leader shed new light on who the Dead were and are, and their influence on a nation.
Jerry Garcia opened up about his near-death experience, and his days with the Grateful Dead in the dusty analogue tapes discovered lying in the KPIX tape vault, gathering dust since 1988.
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The Grateful Dead singer sat down with reporter Kate Kelly for the rare interview at the band’s studio on Front Street in San Rafael, where he talked about their first music video for the hit single “Touch of Grey,” a modest success in “the big world of grown up records.”
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It was made after a Dead concert at Laguna Seca in Monterey County, with real ‘dead heads’ as extras.
“Everybody was excited about it. Everyone enjoyed the idea. Except for the cold. The cold, it was extremely cold,” Garcia said.
Part of Jerry’s virtuosity was his ability to improvise and jam for hours.
“Some people can play the same music every night over and over again and may be never get bored by it, but for me, I hate to play anything the same twice – ever, you know? In fact, I’m almost constitutionally unable to do it, you know,” Garcia said.
As for his health, the Dead had a history of drug busts dating back to when they were living on Ashbury in the Haight.
“What we’re thinking about is a peaceful planet the more people turn on the better world it’s going to be,” Garcia said.
In the seventies, Jerry began using cocaine and heroin. In the eighties, the drug use escalated. He made several attempts at rehab.
During the interview, Jerry had been clean for two years, and had some advice for the youth out there.
“The experimentation has definitely been done kids, I mean, I think, I think a lot of the news is in. You know, certain things are definitely going to burn your brains out. PCP is not good, crack is not good. A lot of drugs will definitely kill you,” Garcia said.
Jerry already had a near death experience.
“I just laid down one day and didn’t get up. I felt really tired, amazingly tired,” he said.
In 1986, Jerry fell into a diabetic coma, and ended up at Marin General.
“I lost about four or five days there. They’re gone. I don’t know what happened,” Garcia said.
The guitar virtuoso had to relearn how to play the guitar.
“I don’t recommend it, you know. Let me just start by saying i don’t recommend near death experiences as a way to motivate yourself,” Garcia said.
Garcia struggled with addiction for the rest of the life.
In 1995, while at a treatment center, he died of a heart attack at 53.
During the interview, Garcia was asked how he wanted to be remembered.
“I don’t know. I never thought about it in those terms,” he said with a laugh. “I guess I would want to be known as the guy who had a pretty good time while he was here…you can go at any moment so you might as well crowd as much possible into your life.”