Happy Birthday Brent Mydland: Watch Grateful Dead Performing Brent Originals

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Grateful Dead keyboardist Brent Mydland was born on this date in 1952. The longest-tenured keyboard player in the legendary band, Mydland was a member of the Dead between 1979 though his untimely death in 1990 at age 37.

The Brent era was marked by both Mydland’s evolving sonic palette as he explored new keyboard and synthesized sounds as well as his signature raspy vocals that added a soulful grittiness and expanded the band’s harmonic scope. Mydland’s contributions to the band’s sound also came in the form of originals — and some covers — he brought to the Grateful Dead’s live repertoire.

In honor of what would have been Brent Mydland’s 68th birthday, below are several examples of the Grateful Dead performing his original songs via the JamBase Live Video Archive. Clicking each video below will start with the highlighted Brent Mydland original.

Far From Me

While “Hell In A Bucket,” which Mydland co-wrote with Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir (who sang lead) and lyricist John Perry Barlow, was played the most by the band, “Far From Me” was the most frequently played song Brent wrote that also featured the keyboardist on lead vocals. The song appeared on the band’s 1980 studio album, Go To Heaven and made its live debut on March 30, 1980. This video from October 2, 1987, at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California features “Far From Me,” as well as Mydland vehicles “Man Smart (Woman Smarter)” and “Gimmie Some Lovin’” along with other favorites.


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Grateful Dead (See 98 videos)
Grateful Dead (See 1,167 videos)

Easy To Love You

Mydland and Barlow co-wrote “Easy To Love You,” which also appeared on Go To Heaven. The Dead first played “Easy To Love You” at their concert on August 14, 1979, and continued playing the song with regularity through 1980. A decade later, “Easy To Love You” re-entered the Dead’s live repertoire, appearing in setlists in the spring and again on Brent’s final tour. One of the final performances of “Easy To Love You” can be seen in the above video from Cal Expo Amphitheater in Sacramento, California.


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Kevin Tobin (See 333 videos)
Grateful Dead (See 1,167 videos)

Never Trust A Woman

“Never Trust A Woman” (also known as “Good Times” in Deadbase and “Good Time Blues” elsewhere) made its live debut on August 28, 1981 and stayed in regular rotation through an appearance at Mydland’s final show on July 23, 1990 in Tinley Park, Illinois. The title “Never Trust A Woman” was how the Mydland composition was labeled on the posthumously released 2001 live album, Nightfall Of Diamonds. Brent can be seen leading the Dead through “Never Trust A Woman” on December 27, 1989 at Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California.


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Kevin Tobin (See 333 videos)
Grateful Dead (See 1,167 videos) and Clarence Clemons (See 8 videos)

I Will Take You Home

“I Will Take You Home” was also written with Barlow and first played at the Grateful Dead’s June 22, 1988 concert and on their final studio album, 1989’s Built To Last. As noted by the excellent Grateful Dead database Whitegum, Barlow commented on the song in his memoir Mother American Night, writing:

The song I wrote with Brent that I liked best is the lullaby “I Will Take You Home.” I wrote the whole thing – melody, words, the works – as I was going up the driveway of his house. Then I sat next to him at the piano as he played it for the first time. It was about his daughters and mine and a promise I needed to make for both of us. That whatever happened, we would be there to take them home. Only Brent didn’t live to do that.

Mydland led a touching performance of “I Will Take You Home” on September 15, 1988, at Madison Square Garden in New York City. As Mydland sang the line Daddy’s come ’round for his darlin’ again / Hold my hand with your little fingers / Daddy’s loving arms gonna gather you in, his daughter Jessica was placed on his piano bench and sat next to her father as he sang the remainder of the song.


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Kevin Tobin (See 333 videos)
Grateful Dead (See 1,167 videos)

Tons Of Steel

“Tons Of Steel” was written by Mydland and recorded by the Grateful Dead for their 1987 album, In The Dark. The song made its first Dead setlist on December 28, 1984, and continued sporadically making setlists through a final rendition on September 23, 1987. One of the last “Tons Of Steel” played by the Dead can be seen in the above video from August 11, 1987, at Red Rocks outside Denver.


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Kevin Tobin (See 333 videos)
Grateful Dead (See 1,167 videos)

We Can Run & Blow Away

“We Can Run” was another Barlow/Mydland collaboration that was part of Built To Last. After making its debut on February 5, 1989, “We Can Run” was a staple of Dead shows that year, with a few additional performances coming in 1990.

“Blow Away” was also a Barlow/Mydland collab that the band recorded for Built To Last. Between its June 20, 1988 debut at Alpine Valley in East Troy, Wisconsin and a final performance on July 16, 1990 at Rich Stadium in Orchard Park, New York, “All 23 versions [of “Blow Away”] feature something very special,” Grateful Dead archivist David Lemieux said.

Both “We Can Run” and “Blow Away” can be viewed in the above video from Shoreline on September 29, 1989.


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Grateful Dead (See 98 videos)
Grateful Dead (See 1,167 videos)

Just A Little Light

“Just A Little Light” — the other Mydland/Barlow co-write on Built To Last — was detailed in Barlow’s Mother American Night, in which he wrote (via Whitegum):

Brent and I had afternoons where we wrote four or five songs together in his house in Martinez in the East Bay. It absolutely helped that he was a piano player, but I also had complete faith in his ability to take my lyrics and sing them in the melody I had in mind.

That was what happened on “Just A Little Light,” which is about the gloom that seemed to be gathering around Brent and Jerry [Garcia] and everything that was then going on backstage at Dead shows. I wanted people to know that there was also still a light left in the world. I was writing about what happens to everyone after a while. Like [Robert] Hunter’s line in “Scarlet Begonias,” “Once in a while you get shown the light / In the strangest of places if you look at it right.” Although I wasn’t consciously quoting that, it is one of my favorite Hunter lines.

The first Grateful Dead performance of “Just A Little Light” came on February 7, 1989. Its short-lived time in the Dead’s repertoire lasted until July 21, 1990, during the first of what became the final three shows with Brent in the band and only five days before his untimely death. That version is can be viewed in the above video from the World Music Theatre in Tinley Park that also features Brent and Jerry teaming up on a memorable cover of Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy.”


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Grateful Dead (See 98 videos)
Grateful Dead (See 1,167 videos)

Don’t Need Love

“Don’t Need Love,” a more scarcely-played Brent original than the others previously mentioned, the song was performed only 16 times between its debut on March 28, 1984, and final rendition on April 13, 1986 — one of just two performances in ’86. This video features the keyboardist leading the band through the rarity on November 20, 1985, at Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center in Oakland.


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Kevin Tobin (See 333 videos)
Grateful Dead (See 1,167 videos)

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