GONE BUT DEFINITELY NOT FORGOTTEN
HE LEFT US 18 YEARS AGO TODAY
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.
| Do you see what I see?|
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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