How did Jerry Garcia Die? The Death of a Legend

how did jerry garcia die
Jerry Garcia. Image by Carl Lender on Wikimedia Commons.

Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead were pioneers and giants of the psychedelic rock genre. Their laid-back and trippy jam-band style catapulted the band onto a long, strange musical trip that spanned over three decades.

The work of Jerry Garcia, the lead songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist for The Grateful Dead, was pivotal to the band’s sound. Like his band, Jerry outlived many of his contemporaries and had a long musical career before passing in 1995.

What caused Jerry Garcia’s death? How did Jerry Garcia die? Find out below.

How Did Jerry Garcia Die?

Jerry Garcia died of a heart attack at the age of 53. According to the L.A. Times, The Grateful Dead frontman passed away at a drug rehabilitation facility in Novato, California.

Garcia had long struggled with heroin addiction and had checked himself into the facility to try to kick the habit again.

Related: The Rolling Stones: A Wild Story of Struggle and Success 

jerry garcia death
Jerry Garcia(playing ‘Tiger’ (front) and Mickey Hart (playing drums) of the Grateful Dead at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado. image by The Grateful Dead on Wikimedia Commons.

When Did Jerry Garcia Die?

Though he was undergoing treatment, drug abuse had taken its toll on Garcia. He was found dead in his room at 4:23 am on August 9 1995.

How Was Jerry Garcia Found Dead?

Garcia was found by a staff member at the facility, in his room, in the early hours of the morning. Garcia was unconscious and not breathing at 4:23 am. Despite attempts to revive him, Garcia was declared dead.

Jerry Garcia’s Last Words

Garcia was found in his room after a heart attack, so his exact last words will never be known.

However, Grateful Dead bandmate Bob Weir recalls the last words the two ever exchanged.

Walking off stage after the final night of their tour on July 9, 1995, Garcia turned to Weir and said, “Always a hoot.” He died exactly one month later.

What Was Jerry Garcia Worth When He Died?

When Jerry Garcia died in 1995, he had a net worth of about $15 million. Adjusting for inflation means Jerry Garcia’s net worth would be about $25 million today.

Related: The 21 Best 60s Songs of All Time: Music That Defined a Decade 


Where Is Jerry Garcia Buried?

After his death, Garcia’s family had his body cremated. They then chose to scatter his ashes in two places special to Jerry.

The first of these was in San Francisco. The family scattered half his ashes underneath the Golden Gate bridge.

The second was the Ganges River in India, where his ashes were scattered into the river after a lunar eclipse.

How Old Would Jerry Garcia Be Today?

If Jerry Garcia had not died in 1995, he would be 81 years old in 2023.

How Many Members Of The Grateful Dead Have Died?

To date, seven members of The Grateful Dead have died.

We already covered Jerry Garcia’s death on August 9, 1995. However, several other members have also passed on.

Robert Hunter died on September 23, 2019. He had suffered major complications following a spinal surgery to remove a spinal cord abscess. Hunter died in his home.

Ron “PigPen” McKernan died on March 8, 1973 of a massive gastrointestinal hemorrhage.

Keith Godchaux died on July 23, 1980 after sustaining severe head injuries in a car accident on the way home from his birthday party.

Other members of the Grateful Dead who have died are Brent Myland, Vince Welnick, and John Perry Barlow.

Related: Jimi Hendrix’s Death: A Tale of the Lost Guitar Legend 

Jerry Garcia’s Career with the Grateful Dead

Jerry Garcia is primarily known for his time with the Grateful Dead from their inception in 1965 until his death in 1994.

The Grateful Dead released their first self-titled debut album in 1967. They’d continue releasing albums through the decades, with 1990’s Without a Net being their final studio effort.

The band was more known for their marathon live shows than their studio albums, though.  They only had one top 40 Billboard hit, “Touch of Grey,” which featured a memorable video.

Other iconic Grateful Dead songs include “Casey Jones,” “Terrapin Station,” and “Truckin.'” Experimental Anthem of the Sun (1968) and 1970’s American Beauty are generally considered their best albums.

Other famous members of the Grateful Dead include Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, and lyricist Robert Hunter (R.I.P.).

jerry garcia net worth
Jerry Garcia, Grateful Dead, May 10 1980, Hart Civic Center, New Haven, CT. Image by Carl Lender on Wikimedia Commons.

Jerry Garcia’s Career Outside the Grateful Dead

Though he’s mostly known for his time with the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia played in many other bands throughout his illustrious career.

He had a side project with longtime friend Merl Saunders, appropriately called the Saunders-Garcia Band.

On the bluegrass side of things, he was a part of Old and in the Way with fiddle legend Vassar Clements.

He also had a major part in the formation of the New Riders of the Purple Sage, which began as a vehicle for the songwriting of Dead friend John Dawson. Garcia played pedal steel on their first album.

Garcia’s solo career also had its share of memorable moments, including albums like 1978’s Cats Under the Stars and a self-titled album in 1991. This was one of the last releases before Jerry Garcia’s death.

Jerry Garcia’s Spouse

Garcia was married several times in his life. 

His first wedding was to Sara Ruppenthal Garcia. Sara worked at a coffeehouse that The Grateful Dead would regularly play, throwing the two together. 

The couple would marry on April 23, 1963 and had a daughter named Heather together on December 8, 1963.

However, during his first marriage, The Grateful Dead frontman met Carolyn Adams. His relationship with Carolyn resulted in his divorce from Ruppenthal-Garcia in 1967.

Carolyn Adams later had two children with Jerry Garcia.

Adams and Garcia would split in 1994.

In 1987, during The Grateful Dead’s spring tour, Garcia started a romantic relationship with longtime friend Manasha Matheson. 

Manasha gave birth to their child on December 20, 1987. The two would later marry on August 17, 1990.

You might also enjoy:

How did Janis Joplin Die? The Tragic Story of Her Heroin Addiction and Final Days 

15 Interesting Facts About the Beatles

27 Fascinating Facts About Bob Dylan 

Written by Anna Paulson


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