Monday, June 05, 2006

 

The Dead's Vince Welnick - 1951-2006

Yet another Grateful Dead keyboardist passed away this weekend. Vince Welnick apparently committed suicide in Forestville, CA on Friday, June 2. He was 55 years old.

Welnick replaced Brent Mydland in 1990, after he died of a drug overdose. Welnick was the last of the Dead's five keyboard players. "A lot of people ask about that and my stock answer is that I am aware of the fact that you could die doing this job," Welnick observed then, "but I was somewhat dying of boredom before the job came up so I thought I'd take my chances."

Born on February 2, 1952 in Phoenix, Welnick co-founded the Tubes, who had one Top 10 hit, "She's a Beauty," in 1983. Based in San Francisco, Welnick met members of the Dead and upon Mydland's untimely death was asked to join America's most-famous touring band. His first show was on September 17, 1990.

"There's magic every night," he said at the time. "I'm still in complete awe of it. I didn't know how 'big time' big time was until I got next to these guys."

Welnick performed with the Dead - occasionally augmented by Bruce Hornsby on piano - until Jerry Garcia died in 1995. He subsequently formed his own group, Missing Man Formation, and also toured with Dead drummer Mickey Hart's band, Planet Drum.

"The big thing about Vince was that he had that fearlessness to be able to go and just jump into our madness and just operate on it like it was a normal, everyday procedure," Hart said Saturday. "A lot of people can play, but with us they just don't know how to navigate. Our music is different."

However, Mike Lawson, who oversees Welnick's website, blasted the Dead for their alleged poor treatment of the keyboardist following Garcia's death. "He never got over the sorrow of losing Jerry, facing his own demons without his friend," Lawson writes, emotionally. "I cannot possibly describe the hurt and anguish he felt when 'The Dead' decided to have a family reunion of the surviving members of Grateful Dead, a band that he was no mere sideman for its last five years, but a full member of by order of Jerry Garcia. How damned insulting was it to have a 'surviving members family reunion' and not invite your new brother? He was the proverbial red-headed step-child to them.

"Vince kept a brave face about it, trying to remain cheerful, hoping that somehow, someday the tide would turn, the phone would ring and it would be Bob Weir calling him. Calling just to say, 'How are you, Vinny?' Something. Anything.

"The lack of compassion displayed toward him, the ostracizing he felt burned and hurt Vince very deeply. He was a sensitive, sweet soul. He just couldn't handle the rejection."

Lawson recounts Welnick's overdose on the Ratdog bus ("Bob [Weir] and Ratdog sent him...to a hospital alone in the back of a taxi cab, without a friend in site, and had him checked in as John Doe, while they played the show anyway") and performing on the "ill-fated summer '95 Dead tour" despite being "very sick...with life-threatening cancer."

"They didn't pull the trigger," Lawson concludes, "but they sold him the gun. At this point, it is now on their shoulders to live with what they could have or should have done. It will stay with them for the rest of their lives."

Cut and paste this url to watch Welnick sing the "Star Spangled Banner" with Garcia and Weir at a San Francisco Giants game:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nn7UB2FtrIE&search=grateful dead

Comments:
Tom Constanten and Bruce Hornsby are still here. Though temporary keyboard players for the GD they did do some critical time on that cryptical bench. As the story goes Vince had tried to take his life once before, AG, on the Ratdog tourbus.

"A pistol shot, at five o'clock, the bells of heaven ring, tell me what you done it for. No, I won't tell you a thing...I will not condemn you nor yet would I deny, I would ask the same of you, but failing will not die."
 
Tom Constanten and Bruce Hornsby are still here. Though temporary keyboard players for the GD they did do some critical time on that cryptical bench. As the story goes Vince had tried to take his life once before, AG, on the Ratdog tourbus.

"A pistol shot, at five o'clock, the bells of heaven ring, tell me what you done it for. No, I won't tell you a thing...I will not condemn you nor yet would I deny, I would ask the same of you, but failing will not die."
 
My bad about Constanten - I've corrected that error.
 
It's not anybody's fault in the Grateful Dead organization that Vince Welnick chose to end things the way he did. How is that Bob Weir's fault? It is not. In a blamer society, everybody wants to point fingers at everybody else, as they have been coached to do by the media. Weak.
 
Rest in peace brother,,,Ill never forget first show charlotte,NC spring 95,unbroken/scarlet>fire.....Take up your china doll,its only a fracture.......
 
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