Vince Welnick (1951-2006)
Welnick, who died after committing suicide at his Sonoma County, California, home, becomes the fourth Dead keyboard player to die of causes other than stage fright. The others are Ron "Pigpen" McKernan (from the effects of alcoholism), Keith Godchaux (a heroin addict who died in a car crash) and Brent Mydland (drug overdose).
Two keyboard players have escaped the curse: Tom Constanten, who performed with the band in the late 1960s, and Bruce Hornsby, who occasionally took time out from his own highly successful career to sit in with the band in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Said Welnick himself of the curse:
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.Welnick was classically trained and had played during the 1970s with The Tubes and Todd Rundgren. He was largely unfamiliar with the Dead's music when he joined the band in 1990, and recalled afterward that he was so nervous he could barely play at his first show with them. He was quickly put at ease when the audience gave him a warm welcome.
Said Dead percussionist Micky Hart:
The big thing about Vince was that he had that fearlessness to be able to go and just jump into our madness and just operate on it like it was a normal, everyday procedure. A lot of people can play but with us they just don't know how to navigate. Our music is different.Welnick's high harmonies were a welcome addition to a band whose vocalizing was never a strong point. He was the last musician to join the Dead before the band broke up after the death of lead guitarist Jerry Garcia in 1995.
He formed his own group, Missing Man Formation, and occasionally toured with them. They had been scheduled to perform later this month, according to his Web site.
Welnick's age was variously listed as 51 and 55. I vote for 55.