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August 10, 2008


Seth Godin

I loved every word of this post.

Thank you.


As a professional musician myself, for over thirty years, I find it hard to believe he ever practiced. Unless he suffered from a short term memory disorder and immediately forgot everything. Harmonic ideas? Triads and maybe a seventh chord here or there were the most you could hope for from them/him. I enjoy simple music very much, the Dead played simple music. there was no harmonic or melodic complexity. they were fun...NOT adventurers or groundbreakers. Let's please try to maintain some perspective.

Peter Darling

Dude, you are totally harshing on my mellow.


Patrick maybe your on drugs. Men like Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton have publically said that Jerry Garcia was the best guitar player who ever lived. They know what their talking about sir.


Where to start, where to start indeed. Best to grab an angle and just dive in...

Clapton has said on several occasions that Duane Allman is the greatest guitar player to have ever touched the instrument. I tend to agree (with a few caveats on the general ranking of musicians explained below). From the end of Layla to the early Allmans shows to his simple but stunning studio work backing the likes of Wilson Pickett (listen to Pickett's version of "Hey Jude" with ear trained on the guitar at the end), Duane had a soul, speed and intensity to his playing that no blues-based or slide player has matched since. In my opinion, of course, all of this being subjective.

Which leads to a second point. Jerry Garcia is every bit as good as Clapton, Beck, Page and Allman. Comparing the wildly divergent styles of these players and attempting to rank them is silly. None of them sound anything like each other save a few similarities between Beck and Page, both of whom played a lot of overheated and at times seemingly uncontrolled solos. I say seemingly because a lot of Zeppelin fans will tell you Page played a lot of ragged runs on purpose.

I can't speak to the musician's comment on the intricacies of Garcia's playing, but I can say this - millions and millions of serious music nuts can't be wrong. These people aren't Britney Spears fans or the sort of screwheads who run out and pick up Nickelback records. Dead fans tend to be discerning listeners. And even if Garcia wasn't exactly the technical wizard presented here, he had a style unlike any other player. Good or bad or mediocre you know a Jerry solo when you hear it and if you appreciated the elegant lines he played, you loved it. It was, as the author notes, transcendent. That's a hell of an achievement for any musician, far more impressive than satisfaction of a critic's technical standards.

It's more than mere fingering, execution or proficiency... And that leads this long winded bit back to the initial point of the post. Practice is important, but I would submit that practice without talent isn't worth a lot. Garcia had a gift. Without that, he could have practiced until the remaining four tips of his fingers fell off and he probably wouldn't have achieved much. Tenacity and determination are oddly considered traits in our culture, simultaneously over and under rated by so many.

All that said, I'm glad Jerry practiced as he did. If not for his rigid regimen following his diabetic coma in the late Eighties - as a result of which he forgot how to play entirely - we wouldn't have those great early Nineties shows.


As I said before, Jerry and the dead were fun. What I didn't say is that I am also a fan. Fun can be inspiring. Fun is not necessarily groundbreaking.
Peter Darling...time to grow up and read whole paragraphs!

Pavan K

Great take on Seth's thoughts, really pleased I clicked through. Thanks. Quitting is never an option if the individual/entrepreneur cares deeply enough. Articles like this strengthen that resolve...


Thanks for this. I didn't realize that Jerry practiced non-stop. He was so good. Never quit! jooloo


Thanks for this. I didn't realize that Jerry practiced non-stop. He was so good. Never quit! jooloo


Thanks for this. I didn't realize that Jerry practiced non-stop. He was so good. Never quit! jooloo


Sorry. jooloo

Alexa Weber Morales

I too am a professional musician. Rather than comment on Jerry Garcia's prowess I'll just say that it's inspiring to think that he never stopped practicing and seeking out new sources of musical knowledge despite enormous success -- the kind of success that would have inspired many to rest on their laurels. That's cool. Thank you!


The phenomenon of people believing that certain great musicians do not practice is quite common. It was long believed that Franz Liszt, the great piano virtuoso, never practiced - until research showed that he practised 10 or 12 hours per day, and diligently. Practice is basically training, it is repititious, dull and difficult.
Anyway thanks for the article, inspiring.


Isn't it all just a simple, "Do what you love"?? and I think the ending is, "and the money will follow"?
Just Jerry and his guitar doing what he loved...



Hey, Patrick, I hate to be the one to tell you, but if you can't hear the things that Garcia plays that are not only ridiculously complicated and varied but also so musically placed, you should either take a really big dose of acid or you should focus more on listening when you practice, because whether it's that you lack talent and just can't hear it, which is fine, or that your head's so far up your rear that you don't hear it, which is also fine (or even if it's just that you play what feels good instead of what sounds good), you're hearing the mundane part of the music and missing the beautiful bigger picture. Good luck searching bud, the sound'll hit you sooner or later.

@Red, yes and no. Rationally, yes, the money can follow if one hones an art form that they love and they become great at it (i.e. Garcia). But if the person's thinking about the money following, they run the risk of losing sight of the love. So yes, it is "do what you love", and no, it's not "and the money will follow", even if the money DOES follow, because the money's a distraction. Feel me?


Garcia's magic was his ability to show others so freely his love for music and specifically his guitar. He had many vices, as you note, but even they took second fiddle to his true passion.

Excellent post, and great insight...will have to check out the rest of your site...I'm excited to find another great read! thx!

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