Jerry Garcia, the longtime and somewhat unwilling frontman of the Grateful Dead, died almost 22 years ago. His influence is still felt today not only in later incarnations of his own band, now touring as “Dead and Company” with John Mayer filling in to channel Garcia’s legendary guitar playing but in the music of scores of “jam bands” that have sprouted up and gained popularity since his departure from this earth.
Garcia’s influence can also be felt in the United States Senate where at least two Senators are proud “deadheads” — the nickname for the band’s loyal followers. Those Senators would be Patrick Leahey or Vermont and Senator Al Franken of Minnesota.
Last week, Garcia and his famous “Wolf” guitar, one he played predominantly in the 1970’s (but used throughout his career) and is the guitar he plays during the 1977 film, “The Grateful Dead Movie” made a huge impact that could affect the lives of many who are fighting for their civil rights in the era of Donald Trump. It was auctioned off and fetched a whopping 1.9 million dollars. An additional donation from an anonymous philanthropic organization raised the total to 3.2 million dollars. The best part is that all the money was raised for the Southern Poverty Law Center, an iconic organization dedicated to fighting for and preserving American’s civil rights. Something that in the era of Trump, is very welcome by many.
The guitar was designed and built by Robert Irwin for Garcia in 1973. After his death, the instrument was willed back to Irwin. After a legal battle with the band, who claimed the guitar was paid for with the band’s money and therefore belonged to the band, Irwin sold the guitar to Dan Pritzker for a reported 789,000 dollars.
After Donald Trump’s election, Pritzker was inspired to put the guitar up for auction to raise money for the SPLC. As reported in Rolling Stone:
“I’ve been a fan of the Dead since I was a kid, and playing this iconic guitar over the past 15 years has been a privilege,” Pritzker said in a statement before the auction. “But the time is right for Wolf to do some good.”
The winner of the auction is another deadhead and does not plan to sell the instrument any time soon:
“I don’t plan on selling it or trading it, and so it’s somewhat priceless,” Brian Halligan, the CEO and co-founder of marketing firm HubSpot and likely long-term Wolf owner, told the French news agency AFP.
It seems that Garcia, who was a major advocate of personal freedoms, is still aiding in helping people with their struggles even 22 years after his death. No, no one is saying that Garcia literally reached out from the grave and dictated the fate of his guitar, but maybe because of their experiences with the Grateful Dead, “one man gathered what another man spilled” and the result is millions in funding to fight Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, and their backwards facing agenda.
Here, one could certainly start spouting off lyrical quotes and paraphrases about the players in this “long strange trip” who were “shown the light in the strangest of places” and did their part of being “the eyes of the world” but after all the cliches maybe it’s just time to relax and as Deadheads say, realize there is “nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile.”