Sat Eye Candy: Brent Mydland


Do you see what I see?
Brent Mydland always seemed like he was up to something. Often it was some infectious sort of mischief though sometimes his jester soul turned black, surfacing in troubling couplets or in the life choices that led to his early demise from a drug overdose on July 26, 1990. Mydland joined the Grateful Dead in 1979, adding his barroom piano, cosmic synth flourishes and charmingly unschooled, yearning voice to their Great American stewpot. Wooly and wild, he was instantly one of them – no easy accomplishment – and helped usher in the next decade's resurgence for the Dead.

For the generation that came of age in '80s, and was lucky enough to share time with Mydland, he was as much "The" keyboardist for the Grateful Dead as Keith Godchaux or Ron "Pigpen" McKernan were to earlier followers. He was part of that decade's strange alchemy that led to Phish, H.O.R.D.E. and this whole "jam band" thang. His spirit, even the dark spots, were reflective of an emerging scene that grasped, sometimes desperately, at the remaining scraps of what folks had experienced in the '60s.

Social theorizing aside, Mydland sparked the kindling under the rest of the Dead, especially in his early days with them, bringing forgotten numbers back into the fold and expanding their reach into other's catalogs. When he was happy he could switch on an entire arena, and when he was low he capable of the same pathos as Garcia, taking us down to places we might not visit on our own. Whether he felt it or not himself is a matter of speculation but there was the undeniable feeling of someone holding your hand when he dove into the blues or howled his part of "Hell In A Bucket" (just one classic he co-wrote). He made scary things seem a bit less scary.

There's little chance he'll be forgotten. Everyone that saw him play will have his or her own memories, and we encourage you to share them with us on this day of remembrance. Now, kick off your shoes and do the "Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodleloo" in shuffling celebration of one of the good ones.

We kick off our Mydland salute with a fantastic "Dear Mr. Fantasy," one of Brent's signature covers during his tenure, captured from the crowd in 1988.

Here's Brent being interviewed by Al Franken during the intermission at the 1980 Halloween show at Radio City Music Hall.

Smooth when he wanted to be, Mydland croons on his railroad tune, "Tons of Steel," in Anaheim 1987.

This "Gimme Some Lovin'" from 1989 catches a flash of Brent at his brightest.

We conclude with little heart tug – the boys doing "We Bid You Goodnight" at Alpine Valley. Rest well, sweet brother, rest real well.

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[Published on: 7/26/08]

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snappy Sat 7/26/2008 11:37AM
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From the first time I saw the Grateful Dead on July 13, 1984 at the Greek in Berkeley, Brent was kinda my guy. He just moved and played in a way that said, "Freedom, man, freedom," to me. Sure, there was no denying Garcia's irresistible wattage but I always lined up in the pit so I could ping-pong between Brent & Jerry. His smile was something else, and the fire behind his eyes was something to behold when he got going. I miss him a lot and that doesn't really go away.

HeyHeyHey1 Sat 7/26/2008 11:46AM
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If he died in 1990, wouldnt that be 18 years?

snappy Sat 7/26/2008 11:51AM
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Math isn't our strong suit at JamBase. Thanks for the catch.

adventuresinperception starstarstarstarstar Sat 7/26/2008 12:22PM
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RIP brent. many great times hearing your tunes over the years.

hewboy22 Sat 7/26/2008 01:53PM
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i didn't get into GD until around '88, saw my first show in '89 and Brent just drew me in with his soul, fire and passion. watching him and Jerry glance back and forth at one another while trading licks were some great moments, just wished i had more of them. still remember the call i got on this day in '90, ten days after Rich stadium, probably the best show i saw. pretty sad. RIP Brent.

gr8fulwaggs Sat 7/26/2008 02:09PM
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BRENT...favorite keys of them all. Still lovin' the tapes. (My fiance made a magnet out of a picture of Brent that's on our fridge...I noticed it the 1st time I went to her house...she seems to think he's incredibly sexy.) I just love his keyboard and piano playing.

O1Roggae Sat 7/26/2008 03:09PM
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Favorite keyboardist that played for the grateful dead, its sad that his career ended so so soon. R.I.P. to a true soldier.

FloridaJam Sat 7/26/2008 03:40PM
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RIP brent....your still the man!! no one could grind an B-3 organ quite like him.

01roggae....hey girl...holler!

B42 starstarstarstarstar Sat 7/26/2008 03:43PM
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Seems like just yesterday we were checkin' out "the new guy" playin' with the boys on his first tour up in Maine....

Thanks for the memories and the music Brent

jelly1 starstarstarstarstar Sat 7/26/2008 03:45PM
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Brent was a pleasure to behold. My first taste came @ Alpine 86', from Shakedown on I was taken by his ability to help steer our ship.

From his icicle harmony to his gospel B-3 playing,

he was clearly best suited to be Jerry's counter part. Thank you Bruce for taking over in our darkest hour, Brent would have been proud.

Thank you Brent! We miss you and thank you for the love you brought to us all.Jelly Atlanta GA

jammasterjustin Sat 7/26/2008 04:12PM
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RIP brent

gratefuled starstarstarstarstar Sat 7/26/2008 05:39PM
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RIP Brent. I'm sure you and JG are shreddin' the universe.

PunkJazz Sat 7/26/2008 05:53PM
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What a silly nice guy!

willydog Sat 7/26/2008 10:51PM
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Brent was my key player....bouncing, growling, crystalizing, love, rock, gospel,soul....soul. RIP to the Gerbal...Lay down my dear brother...

breadloaf starstarstarstarstar Sun 7/27/2008 06:34AM
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I met Brent in 1979 in Sringfield, MA, hours before a show. He was cruising around the outside of the venue earlier in the day- in hindsight, I think he was so new to the band and so excited by it all that he wanted to get out and say hi to fans. It was very cool. He always had a special connection with Jerry. Thanks for sharing, Jambase, hello and peace to all Deadheads!

philhitz Sun 7/27/2008 10:39AM
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for a lot of us, brent was the glue that held the GD together in the later years of the band -- i remember that day like it was yesterday -- my grandfather came in & told me the news -- was pretty crushed - but not as bad as that fateful august day in 1995 - so much time has gone by, but the music lives on -- wish i could have the entire group of boys "take me home" one more time.

Marcsmall Sun 7/27/2008 12:22PM
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When I saw my first Dead Shows, it was definitely Brent that had me hooked. The energy, youthfulness, spirit, voice, and ability all had me completely in awe.

Miss you Brent......."You're Never Lost When You're Always Found"

schofizzl Sun 7/27/2008 01:24PM
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that video with franken is hysterical.. i have the DVD of that show but i don't believe that clip is on it, although theres some other hilarious stuff like franken dressed up as henry kissinger arguing with kreutzman about bootleg taping.. and a remarkably good sounding Dead show, i'd recommend it to anybody who even just remotely likes the Dead. oh yeah it all starts with a sugary sweet acoustic set.

ResumeMan Sun 7/27/2008 02:50PM
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nately starstarstarstarstar Mon 7/28/2008 01:55AM
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jambasers...this very kind and i thank you all for the posts

i can only say it's Brent's sprit/soul and heart that i was so funturate to have enjoyed through that decade and it seems there is pretty consitant reporting going on here so carry on brothers and sisters

sunnbear starstarstarstarstar Mon 7/28/2008 12:23PM
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Miss ya man! Eighteen years!? Seems like yesterday.

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Tue 7/29/2008 03:54AM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

Louisville 1990, my ONLY Brent show ever ...

mhc10 Tue 7/29/2008 09:18AM
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I too was at Cardinal Stadium in 1990. It was my first Dead show and my only Brent show. He played Easy to love you in the first set.

BILLYBRIDES Tue 7/29/2008 10:13AM
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He Had THe memory is when I got to Ride a rollercoaster with Brent At Kingswood In Toronto..during there summer solstice shows in late 80s..

Guy starstarstarstarstar Tue 7/29/2008 12:11PM
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I named my son Brent. He'll be 8 years old on 9/11/2008. Thank you Brent Mydland, rest in peace and thank you BrensterB for being a wonderful boy. Keep on truckin'.

jiveafro starstarstarstarstar Wed 7/30/2008 05:44AM
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I like to start all the videos at once and have a mixed up grayfoldedelic experience. HaHa

irtimed Thu 8/7/2008 11:06AM
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The Best Key player the dead ever saw