In April 1996, legendary Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir traveled to India on a mission. At the request of his friend, mentor and Dead co-founder, Jerry Garcia, Weir traveled with Garcia’s wife Deborah Koons, to Rishikesh, India to disperse half of Garcia's ashes in the Ganges River. Garcia passed nine months earlier and, according to his last wishes, the other half of his ashes were poured into San Francisco Bay.
Part troubadour, part philosopher, Garcia was the voice of many counterculture-enamored youth growing up during the mid 1960s. The Dead, originators of the psychedelic San Francisco sound and the prototypical jamband, spawned legions of followers known as Dead-heads, many who remain loyal to the musings and pontification of Garcia to this day.
IBM Corporation, as part of their innovative “Watson” project, has taken every utterance ever recorded by Garcia and entered the data into a sophisticated software program, allowing Garcia to “respond from beyond,” answering questions as Jerry would so that his influence can touch new followers into the future.
In a converted pizzeria in a non-descript strip mall near Menlo Park, CA resides the “Garcia Project” where a Jerry “Watson” Garcia computer greeted me upon my arrival.
MJS: Tell me about your early days.
JWG: I was born in the desert, raised in a lion's den, my number one occupation was stealing women from their men.
C’mon Jerry, that’s a line from a Dead tune.
You expected serious from an aging hipster who still wears tie-dye, even on the other side?
What is it like on the other side?
Sugar magnolia, blossoms blooming, heads all empty and I don't care, Saw my baby down by the river, knew she'd have to come up soon for air.
Dude, get relevant please, there are peeps from Haight-Asbury to New Delhi hanging on every word you say – what about your responsibility to your fans?
My responsibility? When Grateful Dead records tanked after Mickey’s dad robbed us blind, it became all about the cash. Three ex-wives need a lot of taking care of man, tell the fans this my deal with IBM doesn’t even pay the light bills.
So, what are you up to these days?
Livin' on reds, vitamin C, and cocaine. Dressed myself in green, I went down unto the sea. Try to see what's goin' down, try to read between the lines.
It’s got to be better up “north” Vs. down “south.” No?
Ran into the devil, babe, he loaned me twenty bills. I spent the night in Utah in a cave up in the hills. Set out runnin' but I take my time, a friend of the devil is a friend of mine.
I see. Well one last question: Can you sum up your philosophy of life in a few words?
Arrows of neon and flashing marquees out on Main Street. Chicago, New York, Detroit and it's all on the same street. Your typical city involved in a typical daydream, Hang it up and see what tomorrow brings.
published 27 July 2011