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50+ Jerry Garcia Quotes About Life, Music, Drugs, and Politics

Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead was a magnificent guitar player, but he was far from a traditional guitar player.

Since much of Jerry’s playing was improvised, his music came to be a reflection of his mind and his soul. His personality shines through the music as he guides the Grateful Dead through jams and transitions, taking listeners for a ride.

In addition to being a talented musician, Jerry was also a countercultural icon during the 1960s, taking part in the psychedelic revolution that swept America during that time. The Grateful Dead waved that flag for 30 years, from 1965 to 1995, when Jerry sadly passed away. However the scene that they created is still alive and well, with new bands and younger fans still touting their tie-dye colors.

This is to say that Jerry Garcia had a very unique perspective on the world, and he said many funny, clever, and inspirational things during his lifetime.

Today we are lucky enough to have a record of many of the things that Jerry said, and we’ve gathered all of our favorites here today. The quotes are broken down into categories of life, music, the Grateful Dead, drugs, and politics. Some are long, some are short, but they’re all Jerry.

Note that since Garcia did not write the lyrics to any of the Grateful Dead’s songs (that was Robert Hunter), we have chosen not to include any Grateful Dead lyrics in this article.

Enjoy 50+ quotes from the big man below.

Jerry Garcia Quotes About Life

1. “Constantly choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil.”

2. “I’ve opted for fun in this lifetime”

3. “I read somewhere that 77 percent of all the mentally ill live in poverty. Actually, I’m more intrigued by the 23 percent who are apparently doing quite well for themselves.”

4. “Every mind is at least as heavy as mine”

5. “It’s all part of it, man.”

6. “I’m lazy, just like everybody else is.”

7. “To me, that’s the key thing, the pursuit of happiness. That’s the basic, ultimate freedom.”

8. “I don’t think there’s a good excuse for being unhappy. I’m not particularly unhappy, but I know what pain is. I think that life is characterized by pain, partly. Part of the way you can tell you’re alive is by how much pain you’re experiencing, or how little…”

9. “All I know is, if you listen to society, you’ll never get anywhere!”

10. “If you’re able to enjoy something, to devote your life to it or a reasonable amount of time and energy, it will work out for you.”

11. “Live life expecting the worst, hoping for the best, and living for the future!”

12. “The great thing is the thing of being able to see things through many points of view. That’s enlarging. I mean, it saves you from ultimately from the boredom of having one point of view. Like being locked in a room with nothing but your own point of view. Your own references.”

13. “What is life but being conscious? And good and evil are manifestations of consciousness. So if you reject one, you’re not getting the whole thing that’s there to be had.”

Jerry Garcia Quotes About Music

15. “I just love music. All of it – listening to it, playing. I mean, all of it. Everything about it, really. There’s really nothing about it I don’t like.”

16. “I still think of myself as someone trying to learn how to play the guitar. If I learn how to play the guitar, I’ll be really happy.”

17. “I don’t really have anything to say, you know. I mean, that’s why I play.”

18. “For me all music is psychedelic. Country and western music is psychedelic. The blues is psychedelic. Everything is psychedelic. All music.”

19. “You need music, I don’t know why. It’s probably one of those Joe Campbell questions, why we need ritual. We need magic, and bliss, and power, myth, and celebration and religion in our lives, and music is a good way to encapsulate a lot of it.”

20. “Rap is not music, it’s talking.”

21. “The way I start is to learn the literal melody of the tune. Then I construct solos as though I’m either playing with it or against it. That’s a pretty loose description, obviously, because there are a lot of other factors involved. Later on I start to see other kinds of connections, but one of my first processes is to learn the literal melody in any position. I am very attracted to melody. A song with a beautiful melody can just knock me off my feet, but the greatest changes on earth don’t mean anything to me if they don’t have a great melody tying them together in some sense.”

22. “I’m not Beethoven!”

Jerry Garcia Quotes About The Grateful Dead

23. “We’re like licorice. Not everybody likes licorice, but the people who like licorice really like licorice.”

24. “It’s not enough to be the best at what you do; you must be perceived as the only one who does what you do.”*

*(Note: the above quote, number 24 has been attributed to Bill Graham, who famously put a similar quote on a billboard outside of Winterland Arena in San Francisco, at the “Closing of Winterland” in December 1978. There are some who believe Jerry also said it but that may not be true. I left it in here because it is still relevant and interesting, and some comments below reference it.)

25. “We’re sort of like the town whore that’s finally become an institution. We’re finally becoming respectable.”

26. “We’re like bad architecture and old whores. Eventually you become respectable.”

27. “We’re not really calling it an ‘east coast tour’. It’s really more of an infestation.”

28. “So we are pretty convinced we don’t want to play huge stadiums unless we can play them well.”

29. “Well, my feelings are, the music is for the people, ya know it’s like uh… I mean after it leaves our instruments it’s of no value to us, ya know what i mean, it’s like, ya know…what good is it?, So it might as well be taped, my feeling is that..and if people enjoy taping it and enjoy having the tapes to listen to, that’s real great.”

30. “Sell out? Where do I sign?

31. “We’ve been trying to sell out for years. Problem is that no one was buying”

32. “Has success ruined the Grateful Dead? Yeah.”

33. “That’s it, it’s the end of the line, you can’t get any bigger than that, you know like at the Astrodome and that. So, from there, what we would like to do is improve upon the quality of the experience, both on the level of what we were doing ourselves while we interact with the audience and what the audience experiences when we are there. In that sense we are the Don Quixotes of rock and roll. We are doing what nobody else wants to do.”

34. “You can’t ride the rails anymore in this country, but you can follow the Grateful Dead.”

35. “Ugly but honest, that’s us. Hey, there’s a good title for you, ‘Ugly But Honest.’ A’course, we ain’t all that honest, either. Maybe just ‘Ugly’ is good enough.”

36. “We’re as American as a lynch mob.”

37. “They love it when I don’t die. I get a lot of mileage out of that.”

Jerry Garcia Quotes About Politics

38. “It’s tough to come to an adventure in this new lame America.”

39. “We inherited the evil and the wars, but chose to ignore them to death, rather than trying to kill off everyone who does not see Utopia as we do”

40. “For me, the lame part of the Sixties was the political part, the social part. The real part was the spiritual part.”

41. “Somebody has to do something. It seems incredibly, in, in fact, it seems pathetic that it has to be us, you know.” rainforest benefit 1988

42. “It’s been going on hot and heavy out there for years. But, see, everybody’s had a chance to take a good look at it, man, step away from it, you know, that isn’t it – fighting, and hassling, and bloodletting and killings and all that shit, that ain’t it. Whatever life is about, that’s not it. You know, I think everybody should take one step backwards and two steps sideways and let the whole thing collapse.”

43. “What we’re thinking about is a peaceful planet. We’re not thinking about anything else. We’re not thinking about any kind of power. We’re not thinking about any kind of struggles. We’re not thinking about revolution or war or any of that. That’s not what we want. Nobody wants to get hurt. Nobody wants to hurt anybody. We would all like to be able to live an uncluttered life. A simple life, a good life. And think about moving the whole human race ahead a step, or a few steps.”

44. “That’s why we never wrote any anti-war songs. It’s because like why participate on any level, why give war any energy. Any energy you give it, glamorizes it; any energy you give it, even to say that it’s a bad trip.”

45. “I remember once being at a be-in, or one of those things, and the Berkeley contingent—Jerry Rubin and those guys—got up on stage and started harangued a crowd. All of a sudden it was like everybody who had ever harangued a crowd. It was every asshole who told people what to do. The words didn’t matter. It was the angry tone. It scared me; it made me sick to my stomach”.

46. “If we had any nerve at all, if we had any real balls as a society, or whatever you need, whatever quality you need, real character, we would make an effort to really address the wrongs in this society, righteously.”

Jerry Garcia Quotes About Drugs

47. “We were very fortunate to have a a little time in history when LSD was still legal and we were able to experiment with drugs just like we were doing with music.”

48. “To get really high is to forget yourself. And to forget yourself is to see everything else. And to see everything else is to become an understanding molecule in evolution, a conscious tool of the universe.”

49. “It’s really too weird up here. If you’d like to spend an idle half hour sometime, you oughta come up here under these similar circumstances, and see what it’s like, it’s truly weird — utterly weird — beyond the pale.” 2/27/69 Right before Cryptical

50. “Nobody stopped thinking about those psychedelic experiences. Once you’ve been to some of those places, you think, ‘How can I get back there again but make it a little easier on myself?’”

51. “I think it’s too bad that everybody’s decided to turn on drugs, I don’t think drugs are the problem. Crime is the problem. Cops are the problem. Money’s the problem. But drugs are just drugs.”

52. “Death comes at you no matter what you do in this life, and to equate drugs with death is a facile comparison.”

53. “This guy who was uh, sort of this famous freak that ran around the scene in those days, comes in and he’s got this big birthday cake. This huge big birthday cake and I’m lookin at it thinkin, that things gotta be dosed, look I know I know it’s dosed. I’m lookin at it, lookin at it, yea I’m sure it’s dosed. But it looked good ya know it was this beautiful beautiful big; ya know so I thought oh I’ll just take a lil, a lil of the frosting here ya know just, just ya know I’ll just take a lil snack. So I took this and somebody comes in and says, yea we put about uh 800 hits of acid in that frosting ya know and I go DONGGG oh god ya know I’m gonna ohhh Jesus Christ I’m gonna be totally fucking wiped out.”