Year
1995

Jerry Garcia dies

Like his band the Grateful Dead, which was still going strong three decades after its formation, Jerry Garcia defied his life-expectancy not merely by surviving, but by thriving creatively and commercially into the 1990s–far longer than most of his peers. His long, strange trip came to an end, however, on this day in 1995, when he died of a heart attack in a residential drug-treatment facility in Forest Knolls, California. A legendary guitarist and true cultural icon, Jerry Garcia was 53 years old.

Jerome John Garcia was born on August 1, 1942 and raised primarily in San Francisco’s Excelsior District, about five miles south of his and his band’s famous future residence at 710 Ashbury Street. Trained formally on the piano as a child, Garcia picked up the instrument he’d make his living with at the age of 15, when he convinced his mother to replace the accordion she’d bought him as a birthday gift with a Danelectro electric guitar. Five years later, after brief stints in art school and the Army, and after surviving a deadly automobile accident in 1961, Jerry Garcia began to pursue a musical career in earnest, playing with various groups that were part of San Francisco’s bluegrass and folk scene. By 1965, he had joined up with bassist Phil Lesh, rhythm guitarist Bob Weir, organist Ron “Pigpen” McKernan and drummer Bill Kreutzman in a group originally called the Warlocks and later renamed “the Grateful Dead.”

From their early gig as the house band at Ken Kesey’s famous Acid Tests, the Dead was a defining part of San Francisco’s burgeoning hippie counterculture scene. They would go on to play at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and at Woodstock in 1969, but as big as they were in the 60s and 70s, the Grateful Dead grew even more popular and successful as the decade they helped to define slipped further into the past. Indeed, during the final decade of Jerry Garcia’s life, following his recovery from a five-day diabetic coma in 1986, the Dead played an average of 100 to 150 live shows per year, frequently to sold-out audiences that included a significant proportion of tie-dye-wearing college students who were not yet alive when the Grateful Dead first made their name.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Owens wins 4th gold medal

At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, African American track star Jesse Owens wins his fourth gold medal of the Games in the 4×100-meter relay. His relay team set a new world record of 39.8 seconds, which held for 20 years. In their strong showing in track-and-field events at the XIth ...read more

Romans routed at Adrianople

In one of the most decisive battles in history, a large Roman army under Valens, the Roman emperor of the East, is defeated by the Visigoths at the Battle of Adrianople in present-day Turkey. Two-thirds of the Roman army, including Emperor Valens himself, were overrun and ...read more

Manson cult kills five people

On this day in 1969, members of Charles Manson’s cult kill five people in movie director Roman Polanski’s Beverly Hills, California, home, including Polanski’s pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate. Less than two days later, the group killed again, murdering supermarket executive ...read more

Unusual succession makes Ford president

In accordance with his statement of resignation the previous evening, Richard M. Nixon officially ends his term as the 37th president of the United States at noon. Before departing with his family in a helicopter from the White House lawn, he smiled farewell and enigmatically ...read more

Nixon leaves office

Having announced his resignation the day before, Richard M. Nixon steps down from the the presidency of the United States and is succeeded by Vice President Gerald R. Ford. Nixon had resigned rather than face almost certain impeachment because of the Watergate scandal, in which ...read more

Marines launch Operation Cochise

First Marine Division launches Operation Cochise in the Que Son valley. Meanwhile, the First Cavalry Division continued with Operation Pershing, a major clearing operation in the Binh Dinh province designed to improve the security situation in support of the ongoing pacification ...read more

The Great One gets traded

On this day in 1988, Edmonton Oilers center Wayne Gretzky is traded to the Los Angeles Kings along with Mike Krushelnyski and Marty McSorley in return for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas and first-round draft picks in the 1989, 1991 and 1993 drafts. At age 27, Gretzky was already ...read more

Ford is inaugurated

On this day in 1974, one day after the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford is sworn in as president, making him the first man to assume the presidency upon his predecessor’s resignation. He was also the first non-elected vice president and non-elected ...read more

Nez Perce fight Battle of Big Hole

Having refused government demands that they move to a reservation, a small band of Nez Perce Indians clash with the U.S. Army near the Big Hole River in Montana. The conflict between the U.S. government and the Nez Perce was one of the most tragic of the many Indian wars of the ...read more

Hurricane Belle strikes Eastern Seaboard

Hurricane Belle turns toward the United States from the Bahamas on this day in 1976. By the time Belle had run its course, the storm had killed 12 people and caused $24 million in damages from North Carolina to Vermont. Hurricane Belle was a Category 3 storm on the Saffir-Simpson ...read more