The Life and Mind of Jerry Garcia in Conjunction with Howard Gardner’s Model of Creativity

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The Life and Mind of Jerry Garcia in Conjunction with Howard Gardner’s Model of Creativity”We always though of the Grateful Dead as being the engine that was driving the spaceship that we were traveling on.”-Ken Babbs, a former Merry Prankster”Daddy is sleeping. Don’t touch the guitars.” -Heather GarciaIn his Creating Minds, Howard Gardner states the purpose of his book as an examination of the “…often peculiar intellectual capacities, personality configurations, social arrangements, and creative agendas, struggles, and accomplishments” (6). In this paper I will examine the life and creativity of John Jerome Garcia from the framework and theories provided by Gardner, from the perspective of aptness in the musical intelligence.

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One of the most significant events of Jerry Garcia’s childhood occurred when he was four and brother Clifford, “Tiff,” was eight. “We’d been given a chore to do…he’d hold the wood and I’d chop it…he was [messing] around and I was just constantly chopping.” Jerry lost about half of his right ring finger. This was the first of many losses Jerry experienced that would affect his life and musical style.

The Early Years

Born in San Francisco, Jerry Garcia was the son of a registered nurse and an immigrant big bandleader. When Garcia’s band broke up, he went into the bar business. It was right after the Depression. “It was a job he had to take to survive. Back then, you had to take any damn thing.” Continuing the pattern of loss, Garcia drowned when Jerry was five. It is notable that he grew up with a single parent, an environment that characterizes many of today’s children’s formative experiences. When his father died, his decided to continue the bar business. As a result of this, what was left of the Garcia family moved around the San Francisco area quite frequently during the childrens’ formative years. All the family members the children knew lived within a five-block radius. This enabled them to have an even bigger run of the city, as they would often ride the train around town to visit relatives.


One of the issues in Gardner’s model is the child prodigy. We see this reflected best in Picasso, less so in Einstein. Jerry was quite the opposite. His musical career was characterized by very, very hard work. As former wife Sara recalled, “He’d be in a bad mood if he couldn’t practice for several hours a day” (32). “He’d get into an absolute funk if he couldn’t get something absolutely right” (47).


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