Year
1995
Month Day
August 09

Grateful Dead's 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 August 9, 1995, when he died of a heart attack in a residential drug-treatment facility in Forest Knolls, California. A legendary guitarist and 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.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Michael Brown is killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri

On August 9, 2014, police officer Darren Wilson shoots and kills Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. Protests and riots ensue in Ferguson and soon spread across the country. There are many different accounts of the incident, ...read more

Charles Manson cult kills five, including actress Sharon Tate

On August 9, 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 Leno ...read more

Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden” is published

Henry David Thoreau’s classic Walden, or, A Life in the Woods is required reading in many classrooms today. But when it was first published—on August 9, 1854—it sold just around 300 copies a year. The American transcendentalist writer’s work is a first-person account of his ...read more

JetBlue flight attendant quits job via escape slide

On August 9, 2010, JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater quits his job in dramatic style by sliding down his plane’s emergency-escape chute while the aircraft is stopped near the terminal gate at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. Slater, who claimed his actions ...read more

Jesse 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

Gerald Ford becomes president after Richard Nixon resigns

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 on August 9, 1974. Before departing with his family in a helicopter from the White House lawn, he smiled farewell and ...read more

The Great One gets traded

On August 9, 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

Nez Perce fight Battle of the Big Hole

Having refused government demands that they move to a reservation, a small band of Nez Perce tribesmen 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

Atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki

On August 9, 1945, a second atom bomb is dropped on Japan by the United States, at Nagasaki, resulting finally in Japan’s unconditional surrender. The devastation wrought at Hiroshima was not sufficient to convince the Japanese War Council to accept the Potsdam Conference’s ...read more