Remembering Brent Mydland 25 Years Later

By Scott Bernstein Jul 26, 2015 11:30 am PDT

Twenty-five years ago Grateful Dead keyboardist Brent Mydland lost his battle with drug addiction at the way too young age of 37. Mydland’s 11-year tenure with the band was the longest of any of those who held down the Grateful Dead keyboard seat between their formation in 1965 and Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995. Instrumentally, Brent brought a completely different approach to the Dead’s music upon joining the band in 1979, but also added his husky, unmistakable vocals to the band’s arsenal.

Brent was also a capable songwriter whose credits include “Hell In A Bucket,” “Tons Of Steel,” “Just A Little Light,” “Blow Away” and the tender “I Will Take You Home.” “He could take something and turn it into a fully scored, well-thought-out, harmonically structured masterpiece in about a minute and a half,” songwriting partner John Perry Barlow told the New York Times. “Brent could pick his way through anything immediately, which meant he had the special requirement it was going to take to walk into the Dead overnight. He was musically central to the band, but he was so good at what he did that he was able to become fundamental to everything that the band was doing musically without it being immediately apparent to the audience.”

Mydland’s voice and approach was also on display for a number of covers the Dead performed during his time in the group such as “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” “Hey Pocky Way” and “Gimme Some Lovin’.” The keyboardist died just days after the Grateful Dead completed Summer Tour 1990 at The World in Tinley Park, Illinois. The encore that night was the Dead’s recently debuted cover of “The Weight” by The Band. All of the Dead’s vocalists sang lead for one verse of “The Weight.” Brent’s verse ends and the final words he sang as lead vocalist were “I gotta go, but my friends can stick around.” Watch the eerie and emotional performance of “The Weight” from July 23, 1990:

Here’s pro-shot footage of the entire show:

R.I.P. Brent.

JamBase Collections