Revisit Jerry Garcia’s final performance with The Grateful Dead before his death
We’re dipping back into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you a very special show, the final performance of The Grateful Dead’s founding member, the late and great Jerry Garcia.
When Garcia took to the stage on July 9th, 1995, the frontman was very sick indeed. It was easy to tell, his pallid face and shaky demeanour denoted a man under serious stress. Yet still, he soldiered on and took to the stage at Soldier Field in Chicago for the final time.
The entire tour was a bit of a disaster. Accurately described as an unlucky tour, the Summer East Coast dates of 1995 would struggle again on the night of the final performance, as Garcia was struck down by technical issues.
The guitarist he had to replace his trusty Rosebud guitar with a tour spare, the old Tiger, not something any guitarist likes to do. Garcia was less than pleased with the situation and most of the performance seemed to be distracted by either the state of the set or his health. Of course, as with any Dead gig, there are moments of pure musical bliss.
Garcia shrinks back even further as the set progresses, barely contributing to the band’s notorious second shows. The odd night was concluded with a sad moment as The Grateful Dead perform the all-too-apt ‘Box of Rain’ leaving Phil Lesh to sing “Such a long, long time to be gone,” as the audience left the arena, “and a short time to be there.”
In the years before the band touched down in Chicago, Garcia had often struggled with his health on tour. In 1986 the singer fell into a diabetic coma and in 1992 he forced the band to quit their tour due to his “exhaustion”. The singer had booted out a heavy heroin habit some time ago but the effects of a life lived on the edge was there for all to see.
“I had a feeling he was going to swing back out of it, and he was actually trying to do that when his heart quit,” fellow Dead member Bob Weir said in 2014. “He was pressing a bit harder, I think, than his body could keep up with.” Sadly, it would not be the case, Garcia died in his sleep on August 9th in 1995, a week after turning 53.
As soon as the news broke, Deadheads everywhere began making, sharing and bartering for bootlegs of Garcia’s final show. Despite its noticeable flaws, the show goes down in history as one Deadheads will never forget.
Garcia represented the ultimate freedom in music. Always pushing for one another to find their own frequency, Garcia became the faceless man of the counter-culture generation, as likely to be sitting by the theatre door as headlining it that very night.
Below, revisit Jerry Garcia’s final performance with The Grateful Dead back in 1995 and remember his genius.