Vince Welnick who took over as the Grateful Dead’s keyboard player in 1990 after a succession of predecessors met untimely deaths, has died at the age of 55, according to an announcement on his Web site. “Vince passed from this earth on June 2, 2006 … after a decade of battling tragedy while creating beauty and light around him,” the announcement said. It did not give a cause of death. The San Jose Mercury News said he died in a hospital on Friday after being taken from his home in Forestville, California, and it quoted a person at his home as saying “it looks like he took his own life.”
Welnick had previously spoken of a deep depression after Jerry Garcia, founding guitarist of the iconic psychedelic rock band, died in 1995 and the group disbanded. Welnick is the fourth keyboard player for the band to have died, and his Web site referred to the position as a “particularly doomed spot.” He once told an interviewer, “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, but I was somewhat dying of boredom before the job came up so I thought I’d take my chances.”
Originally a member of the 1970s rock band “The Tubes,” Welnick joined the Grateful Dead after longest-serving keyboard player Brent Mydland died in 1990 of a drug overdose. Previously, pianist Keith Godchaux died in a car accident in 1980, a year after he left the band, and founding vocalist and keyboard player Ron “Pigpen” McKernan died in 1973 of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage. After the Grateful Dead broke up and ended its 30-year run as one of America’s biggest touring acts, Welnick formed his own group, Missing Man Formation. He also toured with other groups including Grateful Dead drummer
Mickey Hart’s band.
He did not take part in various reunions of the Dead’s other surviving members. “His service to and love for the Grateful Dead were heartfelt and essential. He had a loving soul and a joy in music that we were lucky to share,” the band said in a statement. In an extension of the band’s “curse of the keyboard player,” Scott Larned, cofounder and keyboard player for the nationally-touring Grateful Dead tribute band Dark Star Orchestra, died last year of a heart attack.