Jesse Jarnow

vince welnick

The suicide of former Grateful Dead keyboardist Vince Welnick on Friday saddened me in a way I couldn’t have predicted. As a latter-day Deadhead, I never had much use for him. In large part, that is because his tenure fell during Jerry Garcia’s final half-decade, a period of terminal musical decline. In the proverbial history book, Welnick is a footnote.

But he was also a real dude, who — until last week — was busting his ass trying to make a living playing keyboards (most recently with various Dead cover bands). His story, as posted by his friend Mike Lawson, is heartbreaking. Welnick was depressed, Lawson writes, because his ex-bandmates never invited to any of the periodic Dead regroupings. This, in part, seems to have happened because — while on tour with Bob Weir and Ratdog — Welnick overdosed in the back of the bus, and was subsequently shoved unceremoniously into a cab and sent to the emergency room as a John Doe.

There’s more, of course, throughout both Lawson’s post and the subsequent thread. In a way, with its neat and logical narrative, it makes perfect sense of what happened — something extraordinarily rare. But just because the story makes sense and has an ending doesn’t mean that anything is resolved, or better. Sometimes, the music just doesn’t work, and that might be the scariest ending of all.

1 Comment

  1. Randy Ray says: - reply

    Thank you. I’ve had a rough weekend for the same reasons and I’m not very good at all at articulating loss–something it took me an entire novel to write in a feeble way of dealing with the usual male emotional constipation.
    Your words hit home in an honest and profound way. I appreciate that you, once again, helped define the incomprehensible mysteries of life.

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