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Jerry Garcia

Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead was a folk and blue-grass obsessive who started playing guitar at 15.

Michael Ochs Archive/Getty

Garcia was a folk and blue-grass obsessive who started playing
guitar at 15. It was those roots, as well as a lifelong love
of Chuck Berry, that gave his astral experiments with the Grateful
Dead a sense of forward momentum. Garcia could dazzle on slide
(“Cosmic Charlie”) or pedal steel (“Dire Wolf”), but his natural
home was playing lead onstage, exploring the frontier of
psychedelic sound. The piercing lyricism of this tone was all the
more remarkable for the fact that he was missing the third finger
of his right hand — the result of a childhood accident while
he and his brother Tiff were chopping wood. He died in 1995 in
rehab for his longtime drug habit. But his guitar still shines like
a headlight on a northbound train.