Dear Reader:

Bill Wyman’s August 25 “Jerry Garcia RIP” [Hitsville] was one of the snottiest, most mean-spirited columns I have ever read. Why Wyman feels the need to “rip” into a deceased musician is something perhaps he understands, but I feel compelled to comment on his lack of judgment.

Yes, it is true that every death is a tragedy, particularly deaths that are avoidable. As I read his self-righteous thoughts, Wyman is apparently most upset because Garcia, a 53-year-old musician, did not deserve to take heroin since he was past his prime musically, or “moribund,” as Wyman put it. I guess Wyman feels that Garcia was not cool enough to do something so alternative as heroin, which no doubt he feels only folks like Kurt Cobain, Perry Farrell, Johnny Thunders, and River Phoenix are “entitled” to do in the name of their art. Evidently Garcia would have fared far better in Wyman’s eyes if he were in the Stone Temple Pilots. Regrettably, Wyman’s comments are more a veiled snipe at Deadheads than a commentary on Garcia’s death.

Sadly, Wyman fails to realize that a junkie’s habit is a junkie’s habit and that it is no easier to kick the monkey if you’re old and no longer relevant in the eyes of a rock critic than if you’re young, hip and alternative.

Wyman’s musings on Garcia’s “average day” are nothing less than outrageously obnoxious. One doesn’t need to shoot up to have a heroin problem, and from all reports I know of, Jerry wasn’t a shooter. As far as being wheeled to concert venues, I’m not sure what Wyman is trying to say–that Garcia was overweight, that he was too out of it to play? As far as Wyman’s sick insinuation that after a show Jerry would have sex “with whatever combination of people he wished” and then drop “off into unconsciousness,” suffice it to say that Jerry was a married guy who happened to be into music, art, scuba diving and drugs and was trying to quit the latter.

I had the privilege of seeing Jerry Garcia play music for 23 years. I feel extremely sad that Jerry did not have the inner fortitude to get clean. I feel sadder that I will be missing the smile his music always put on my face, each of those 23 years. What Wyman maliciously calls “noodling for three-and-a-half hours” always helped me forget about the momentary trials and tribulations of life and experience the joy of music.

Phil Zisook

Highland Park