A few folks have asked me why I haven’t mentioned the recent anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s death. Personally, I have always preferred to celebrate birthdays instead. However, it’s important to reflect on the life of someone that impacted so many people — not just artistically, but in the way we do business.
The Dead showed us that you could be true to your creative vision and still prosper. Critics argue that the music is overrated. So what? There’s an audience for everything. The Dead illustrate the power of a connected audience — especially in a period of time before the web, before MySpace, before “street teams.”
There’s another lesson in the way that we reflect on Jerry’s life.
The day that Jerry died, I happened to be in a radio studio with Joan Baez and Dar Williams, pre-taping an interview that would air a few weeks later. We had to break the news to Joan that her dear friend had suddenly, unexpectedly, passed. I figured we would scrap the interview — I wasn’t so cruel as to expect her to conduct business as usual! Instead, with only a moment’s consideration, Joan asked if she could go live on the air, so she could help Jerry’s fans mourn.
I am still touched by that selfless act. Others might have just lapsed into tears. Instead, Joan reminded us that Jerry’s audience — and ours too — needed help. That message — your audience comes first — has stuck with me for the last decade.
Thank you Joan, and thank you, Jerry.