Jerry Garcia Turns 75: A 'Dark Star' Celebration : All Songs Considered "Dark Star" launched hundreds of jams and pushed Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead beyond their creative and exploratory limits. Celebrate Garcia's 75th birthday with a "Dark Star" playlist.
NPR logo Jerry Garcia Turns 75: A 'Dark Star' Celebration

Jerry Garcia Turns 75: A 'Dark Star' Celebration

Jerry Garcia would have turned 75 on Tuesday. Jim Marshall hide caption

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Jim Marshall

Jerry Garcia would have turned 75 on Tuesday.

Jim Marshall

It's hard to believe that Jerry Garcia would have turned 75 Tuesday.

Eight days after his 53rd birthday, the Grateful Dead legend died in his sleep at a recovery center, while trying one last time to shake his addictions.

Garcia was always an old soul: He'd been here before and he knew it. He was already familiar with the rules, yet he defied conventions and created a body of work that many are still discovering and appreciating.

There are countless ways to mark his birthday — Grateful Dead theater meet up, anyone? — but 75 seems like too significant a number to ignore. So here's another tribute: a five-track playlist of different versions of "Dark Star," the song that launched 246 jams over The Grateful Dead's 28-year history. To my mind, it was the song that pushed Garcia and the entire band to their exploratory and avant garde edges.

For the record: These five versions are chosen using no other criteria than the fact that I dig them.

Happy Birthday, Jerry Garcia: A 'Dark Star' Mix

Cover for What a Long Strange Trip It's Been: The Best of the Grateful Dead

"Dark Star" single (1967)

  • Song: Dark Star [Single Version]

It's mind-blowing to think the band released this as a single on a 45 RPM record. Not only did it not make a noticeable splash, but Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh has been quoted saying, "It sank like a stone." An inauspicious start...

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Song
What a Long Strange Trip It's Been: The Best of the Grateful Dead
Album
What a Long Strange Trip It's Been: The Best of the Grateful Dead
Artist
Grateful Dead
Label
Rhino
Released
1977

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"Dark Star" from Live Dead (1969)

  • Song: Dark Star

For those who hadn't seen the band by 1969, this was their introduction to a live version of "Dark Star." Many argue it is definitive.

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Song
Live/Dead
Album
Live/Dead
Artist
Grateful Dead
Label
Warner Bros.
Released
1969

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Courtesy of the Artist

"Dark Star" from Long Strange Trip soundtrack (2/13-14/70)

  • Song: Dark Star

From the legendary Feb. 13 and 14, 1970 shows recorded at the other Fillmore: New York City's Fillmore East. (Note: This is a different version than the one included on Dick's Picks Vol. 4.)

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"Dark Star" from The Closing Of Winterland (12/31/78)

  • Song: Dark Star

If you listen closely to the recording of this track from either the CD or the DVD, you can hear a desperate Deadhead call out, "Dark Star!" from the crowd. It'd been almost four years since the band had played the song by the time it graced the legendary Winterland stage one last time. (It was closed, then demolished shortly thereafter.) This is one for the ages.

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Closing of Winterland: December 31, 1978
Album
Closing of Winterland: December 31, 1978
Artist
Grateful Dead
Label
Grateful Dead
Released
2003

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Cover for Wake Up To Find Out: Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY, March 29, 1990

"Dark Star" from Wake Up To Find Out: Nassau Coliseum Uniondale, New York (3/29/90)

  • Song: Dark Star

In later years, the band exploded with creativity once more, as the introduction of MIDI technology allowed it to add even more textures and layers to its music. This track captures glimpses of those sounds, but mostly it shows off an amazing jam with jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis. He was quoted as being astounded at the way the entire place erupted from hearing just the first few bars.

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Song
Wake Up To Find Out: Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY, March 29, 1990
Album
Wake Up To Find Out: Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, NY, March 29, 1990
Artist
Grateful Dead
Label
Rhino
Released
2014

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