Happy 80th birthday Jerry Garcia, singer, guitarist and songwriter for the Grateful Dead. His musical and technical ability on a wide variety of instruments drove his interest in improvisation, a technique that he felt took away the stress of performing.

Music was an influence from birth when his parents named him for composer Jerome Kern. His father was a bar owning former professional musician and when he died in a tragic fishing accident, Garcia’s mother bought out the bars’ partner and ran it herself.

In 1961 Jerry Garcia met Robert Hunter, starting a long lasting songwriting partnership responsible for many of the greatest Dead songs. After a few years around San Francisco, he and friends formed the Grateful Dead, a group that would last until his death.

Jerry Garcia was active in many other projects during his Grateful Dead years. The Jerry Garcia band ran for 20 years featuring a changing lineup playing rock and rhythm and blues in the improvisational style preferred by Garcia. The Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band and his participation in Old And In The Way highlighted Garcia’s interest in old-time and bluegrass music. Garcia was also a founding member of New Riders of the Purple Sage, a group that would occasionally open for the Dead in the late 60s.

Jerry Garcia also released four solo records over a ten year period.