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LEGENDARY JERRY GARCIA IS FOUND DEAD AT 53

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Jerry Garcia, legendary leader of the Grateful Dead, died early Wednesday, Marin County sheriff's officials said. He was 53.

He was found at 4:23 a.m. by a counselor at Serenity Knowles, a residential treatment center for drug addiction, said Dan Murphy of the sheriff's office.A nurse attempted CPR, and sheriff's department staff who were summoned also attempted unsuccessfully to revive him, Murphy said.

No cause of death was immediately given.

The Grateful Dead, with its roots in the Bay Area's psychedelic scene of the 1960s, combined rock, bluegrass and folk influences into a unique stew. Garcia was lead guitarist, composer and vocalist.

The band had hits such as "Truckin' " and "Casey Jones." But it was almost more than a band to the thousands of "Deadheads," many of whom followed the group from concert to concert.

Because of them, the Grateful Dead has been the most popular act in the United States, grossing tens of millions of dollars each year.

"You need music," Garcia once said. "I don't know why; it's probably one of those Joe Campbell questions, why we need ritual. We need magic and bliss and power, myth and celebration and religion in our lives, and music is a good way to encapsulate a lot of it."

Garcia had a history of health problems that caused frequent breaks in the Dead's grueling concert schedule. In 1986, he entered the hospital in a diabetic coma.

Garcia slimmed down, stopped smoking and hired a personal fitness trainer after falling ill with exhaustion in 1991, but the years of constant touring took its toll.

"It was a meltdown. Too many cigarettes, too much junk food and too little exercise," band spokesman Dennis McNally said last year.