Richard Alden Griffin was born on June 18th 1944 near Palos Verdes, in southern California. As a child, Griffin developed mutual interests in surfing and drawing, two habits that remained constant throughout his life and career. During and after high school, he worked on the staff of John Severson's Surfer magazine where he created his well-known comic strip charachter "Murphy". After a 1964 car wreck that temporarily halted his pursuits (and cost him the use of his left eye), Griffin gradually made his way back to the drawing and surf boards. A few years later (while attending art school in Los Angeles), Griffin met his future wife, Ida, as well as a loose confederation of artists and musicians known as the Jook Savages. In early 1966, the group participated in Ken Kesey's Watts Acid Test, initiating Griffin head-first into the world of psychedelics.
Rick, Ida and the Jook Savages emigrated to San Francisco in the fall of 1966, where he moved into an apartment on Elsie Street in the Bernal Heights district. After seeing the psychedelic rock posters that were being designed for the Fillmore and Avalon Ballrooms, Griffin decided to try his hand at creating posters. His first poster was for a Jook Savages art exhibition/performance, but when organizers for the Human Be-In saw his work, they asked him to design a poster for their event. Be-In organizer/rock promoter Chet Helms was immediately impressed by Griffin's work and asked him to design posters for the Family Dog. The bands whom Griffin drew concert posters for included The Charlatans, Big Brother & the Holding Company (with Janis Joplin), the Doors, the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Country Joe & the Fish, Jimi Hendrix and many more. In 1967, The Moore Gallery in San Francisco held a "Joint Show" of psychedelic art, where he teamed up with other leading SF poster artists, notably Victor Moscoso, Wes Wilson, and Stanley "Mouse" Miller and Alton Kelley. Later in 1967, the Berkeley Bonaparte poster distribution agency hired Griffin as an in-house artist, which produced some of his best-known work. During this period, Griffin also contributed heavily to several underground "comix", including Robert Crumb's "ZAP", "Snatch" and others.
Upon returning to southern California in 1969, Griffin adopted Christianity, which led to fundamental changes in his lifestyle as well as the content and style of his art. One of his most significant projects from the 1970s was a set of hundreds of paintings and drawings for the illustrated The Gospel of John, published in 1980. He also produced a great deal of art for the Grateful Dead in the 1970's and 1980's, including the "Wake of the Flood" and "Reckoning" album covers, t-shirts and stage backdrops. In the 1980's and early 1990's Griffin also created images for newer artists such as the Cult and Aerosmith, while continuing to paint and work on other projects. His first major New York City art exhibit was held at Greenwich Village's Psychedelic Solution Gallery in 1986.
On August 15, 1991, in Petaluma, CA, Griffin was thrown from his Harley-Davidson motorcycle when he collided with a van that suddenly turned left as he attempted to pass it. He was not wearing a helmet, and sustained major head injuries. He died three days later, on August 18, at nearby Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, at the age of 47.