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Thursday, June 2

10 Years Ago Vince Welnick Took His Own Life. The Grateful Dead's Black Eye and Biggest Lie not dared spoken.

10 Years Ago Vince Welnick Took His Own Life. The Grateful Dead's Black Eye and Biggest Lie not dared spoken.

    Vince Welnick was a wonderful man who battled clinical depression. Vince Welnick was also an outstanding musician and his work with The Tubes is historically profound and was way ahead of his time. Then, the worst thing ever happened to him.  He joined the nicest, most empathic band ever; The Grateful Dead. Jerry Garcia knew his peculiar if not limited sound would be a perfect addition to Bruce Hornsby's explosive Grand Piano. Brent Myland had just overdosed while occupying the chair of death. His explosive power on stage made him impossible to replace in all eyes. But just three months later, two players replaced him. They did the only musically maneuver possible they approached the music from another realm. It was genius and it worked out magically and better than anybody could have dreamt. Hornsby's youth and fearless bravura rejuvenated Jerry at another crucial time and they made sweet music together that tugs at your heart before your feet were forced to listen. Vince was performing better than needed. "Fans greeted him with the "Yo,Vinnie" signs to lend support as he was there to make weird noises with his electronic organ when needed and help fill gaps that come when musicians learn eighty songs at once. The next two years are arguably my favorite creative years since 1985. I mean a rousing blues jam that bleeds into another precise Garcia vocal and it's bleeding into a "Takes a Lot to Laugh and a Train to Cry." WOW! 
  By the next tour, Bruce was introducing his material singing old and new tunes. Life was going good in Jehovah's favorite choir. We all know that's no good at all. A tour or three later Jerry gets back on heroin. Same as it ever was? No, Bruce Hornsby makes music first and embarrasses himself for money never. I also believe he would not take part in milking Jerry. Vince Welnick is now forced into a musical role he did not sign up for or can fill. But this mensch of a man,  faces down his anxiety and depression to try and become the charismatic keys player the man needed in a painful way. A large segment of the community bitched at the most, or took a piss during every Samba in the Rain for years at the least. The money train was rolling and I felt fine. I even liked his Hunter collaborations. They were placed in unfair spots in the set but I danced and held it down. Well by now it went from bad to riots to Jerry dying in rehab suffering from the lack of our drug ironically. He was trying to get sober for the fans and the band. Also, I would like to think for his friend Vince who got into a winless musical existence and neglected that as well. What followed is the blackest eye my band has in 50 years. Some would compare it to murder by indifference. I would say that's about accurate if not unfair. How hard is it to be a friend to a human that cried out for one. Vince was in Ratdog fairly early after Jerry passed. Then his sickness got him kicked out for being mentally broken. I can understand why a travelling band can't have suicide attempts between shows. What followed was complete cruelty on the highest level if you take the nicest version. He crawled up on his feet and built a damn good band"Missing Man Formation”. His bandmates knew where to find him one more time when they stole his band's two members that mattered. Bruce Hornsby was the new history and as fans we felt fine. Some chatter but not near outrage. At Alpine Valley the Grateful Dead celebrated 35 years billed as the family reunion. Vince was not in the band he knew that much. I can't say for sure why he was turned away backstage. I know why he assumed he could have a sandwich and maybe a laugh. It was a family reunion thrown by a group he was asked to join and left his family to honor that sentiment. Vince Welnick killed himself shortly after that weekend. The Dead.net honored his legacy with a sentiment about three inches that traveled the browser akin to football scores. Vince was a very sick man and I would never blame his death on assholeness. But I am fairly certain a group of friends would have helped our black eye and vanity. His songs are still not performed by his ex-bandmates. I don't claim to know the whole story but I know enough. Rest Easy Vince, I think I hear a jug band playing, if I don't who else will. 
This is the opinion of Kevin Long
Edited by Greg Heffelfinger