Suzanne Kirkland /s/u:/z/æ/n/   /k/ɜr/k/l/æ/n/d/

Growing up in the late 1950s and early ’60s, Suzy Kirkland developed an early talent for tinkering. “I used to take things like radios, other little electronic devices if they didn’t work, open them up, mess with them, put them back together and they worked,” she remembers during a recent phone call. “I could fix watches that wouldn’t work for anybody else.” Her fascination with how things worked helped her breeze through the available math and science classes at her Martinez, Calif. high school to the point that, she said, “they ran out of things for me to do, so they let me go over to the college to play at the lab.”

“Math was fun, I enjoyed it, and science was discovery,” she says. “The universe is math, right? Just how it all fits together.” She began traveling regularly, sitting in on seminars about chemistry and metallurgy in Berkeley and San Francisco in the ’60s — a place where lots of other young people were also investigating, in lots of different ways, how the universe fit together. That’s where she met the Grateful Dead, with whom she’d eventually travel thousands of miles over close to 20 years, recording hundreds of hours of tape and becoming one of the many female workers, supporters and associates who shaped the story of America’s most weird, colorful, sui generis rock and roll band.