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Jerry Garcia

specifically, it affected the whole me. The problem of playing music is essentially of muscular development and that is something you have to put in the hours to achieve no matter what. There isn’t something that strikes you and suddenly you can play music.

David: You’re talking about learning the technique, but what about the inspiration behind the technique?

Jerry: I think that psychedelics was part of music for me in so far as I’m a person who was looking for something and psychedelics and music are both part of what I was looking for. They fit together, although one didn’t cause the other.

Rebecca: If you were made Clinton’s drug-policy advisor, what would you do?

Jerry: I would advise him to make everything legal immediately.

Rebecca: Now when you say that, do you mean readily available to everybody, without restrictions?

Jerry: Yes, because the first thing to do is to take the criminality out of it. Take the profit out of it and the whole criminal structure will collapse. The next part is the health aspect, making drugs that are clean and in knowable, understandable doses. Why not spend research money on making drugs that are good for you, that are healthy? Is the problem that we don’t like people changing their consciousness? I don’t think that’s a good enough reason not to have drugs.

The point is, humans love to change their consciousness and so there will always be drugs. You can either deal with this situation by acknowledging it, or you can pretend it’s not real and outlaw it. If you’re going to make laws about what human beings should and shouldn’t do, you need to have a template.

Rebecca: Do you think that people in government have a knee-jerk reaction to drug use because they are afraid of unleashing the autonomous sensitivities that come with individuals exploring their own minds?

Jerry: I don’t think they’re doing it on purpose, it’s just part of the traditional way to act. It’s part of that questionable quality called `responsibility’, of somebody thinking that somebody should behave themselves somewhere. The ideas about what that means are very narrow and sadly in need of rethinking.

Rebecca: So then you think that heroin, cocaine and crack addicts have a right to use these drugs if this is what they feel they need to do, in the same way that society allows for people to become alcoholics?

Jerry: Why not? What’s the objection?

David: Well, the objection would be that it puts a strain on society. If addicts need medical care it has to come out of tax-payers money.

Jerry: I think addicts represent very little strain on society in terms of medical care. If society is worrying about taking care of people or not, it could start anywhere. Part of the whole rehabilitation of people is taking them out of the criminal spiral of having to get money to score their dope. If addicts have the drugs they need, it may be possible for them to get steady enough to start doing regular stuff like holding down a job.

Rebecca: Just such a system has been put successfully into effect in England, after they gave up on the war-on-drugs approach. People are overcoming their addictions and are treated with dignity. They’re allowed to remain with their families and are able to hold down a job.

Jerry: Right. There’s nothing that says you can’t be productive if you’re an addict. The problem is the illegality. It puts such a stress on the whole system. The war on drugs is a failure, but people won’t admit it.

Rebecca: Isn’t part of the drug problem also the social environment we’ve created for those less fortunate, the dog-eat-dog attitude of capitalist philosophy? Psychedelics are primarily used to expand one’s experience of life, but many people use crack to deaden an otherwise painful existence.

Jerry: Perhaps. But if life is miserable, what’s wrong with adding a buffer to it so that your experience of it is a little gentler?

Rebecca: Do you think that the legalization of drugs could soon be a reality?

Jerry: I have hope that something like that might happen someday, but I don’t think it will, not realistically, not as long as there are the people in power who believe that they know how other people should behave.

Rebecca: What would you say to someone who described The Grateful Dead as simply a grand nostalgia trip?

Jerry: Well, that’s certainly an opinion. I don’t think anybody who comes to our shows would see that. First of all, there are kids at our shows. It’s not nostalgia for them – it’s happening now.

Rebecca: But they might be nostalgic for what they missed out on in the sixties.

Jerry: They might be, but I don’t think that’s the case. The Grateful Dead has evolved – it does things. It isn’t a steady-state, it’s not a remnant. Really the whole thing has been slowly growing all this time. It didn’t level off at some point and then people started re-energizing it, it’s been gradually picking up energy.

David: When you project into the future how do you see your music evolving?

Jerry: I have no idea. I was never able to predict it in the past, I certainly don’t feel confident to predict it now.

David: Did you ever imagine it would get this far?

Jerry: Oh God no! It exceeded my best expectations fifteen, twenty years ago. We’re way past the best I could come up with.(laughter)

David: How did you come up with the name the Grateful Dead?

Jerry: We called ourselves the Warlocks and we found out that some other band already had that name so we were trying to come up with a new one. I picked up a dictionary and literally the first thing I saw when I looked down at the page was The Grateful Dead. It was a little creepy, but I thought it was a striking combination of words.

Nobody in the band liked it, I didn’t like it either, but it got around that that was one of the candidates for our new name and everybody else said, yeah that’s great. It turned out to be tremendously lucky. It’s just repellent enough to filter curious onlookers and just quirky enough that parents don’t like it. (laughter)

David: What’s your concept of God if you have one?

Jerry: I was raised a Catholic so it’s very hard for me to get out of that way of thinking. Fundamentally I’m a Christian in that I believe that to love your enemy is a good idea somehow. Also, I feel that I’m enclosed within a Christian framework so huge that I don’t believe it’s possible to escape it, it’s so much a part of the western point of view. So I admit it, and I also believe that real christianity is okay. I just don’t like the exclusivity clause.

But as far as God goes, I think that there is a higher order of intelligence something along the lines of whatever it is that makes the DNA work. Whatever it is that keeps our bodies functioning and our cells changing, the organizing principle – whatever it is that created all these wonderful life-forms that we’re surrounded by in its incredible detail.

There’s definitely a huge vast wisdom of some kind at work here. Whether it’s personal – whether there’s a point of view in there, or whether we’re the point of view, I think is up for discussion. I don’t believe in a supernatural being.

Rebecca: What about your personal experience of what you may have described as God?

Jerry: I’ve been spoken to by a higher order of intelligence – I thought it was God. It was a very personal God in that it had exactly the same sense of humor that I have.(laughter) I interpret that as being the next level of consciousness, but maybe there’s a hierarchical set of consciousnesses. My experience is that there is one smarter than me, that can talk to me, and there’s also the biological one that I spoke about.

David: Do you feel that there’s a divine plan at work in nature?

Jerry: I don’t know about a plan. I don’t know whether it cares to express itself that way or even if matters such as developmental constructs along time have any relevance to this particular God point of view. It may be a steady-state God that exists out beyond space-time beyond our experience, or around it, or contemporary with it, or it may function in the moment – I have no idea.

Rebecca: I understand that you became very ill a few years ago and came very close to death. I’m interested in how that experience affected your attitude to life.

Jerry: It’s still working on me. I made a decision somewhere along the line to survive, but I didn’t have a near-death experience in the classical sense. I came out of it feeling fragile, but I’m not afraid of death.

Rebecca: Were you afraid of death before?

Jerry: I can’t say that I was actually. But it did make me want to focus more attention on the quality of life. So I feel like now I have to get serious about being healthful. If I’m going to be alive I want to feel well. I never had to think

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