US guitarist, songwriter, and leader of the group the Grateful Dead. Closely involved with the San Francisco hippie movement and the use of drugs such as LSD, the band first played ‘psychedelic’ rock but moved on to a more diverse repertory of rock styles in the 1970s. In 1987 the group announced its comeback from a lengthy hiatus with a hit single ‘Touch of Gray’ and the album In the Dark. Although the group recorded over two dozen albums, they were best known for the success of their live concerts and the loyalty of their fans, known as ‘deadheads’.
Garcia was born in San Francisco, California. He studied piano as a boy but turned to the guitar in his teens. He dropped out of school at 17 and served nine months in the US Army before being discharged for poor conduct. He began to play folk and blues guitar, alone or with pickup groups, in clubs in the San Francisco area while working as a salesman and music teacher in a music store, 1959–65. In 1965 he formed a band, the Warlocks, but on discovering another group with that name, it was changed to the Grateful Dead in 1966. From 1974 the band's members began to go their own ways, and Garcia made solo appearances and albums. In the 1980s he became heavily addicted to drugs and, after being arrested in 1985, he was sent to a treatment centre; after emerging from a diabetic coma, he made moves to turn his life around, reviving the Grateful Dead.