Vince Welnick, the final Grateful Dead keyboardist, dies

In case you haven't heard, Vince Welnick died last Friday, June 2nd. The cause is believed to have been suicide, although an official autopsy is scheduled this week. Welnick was the fourth and final keyboardist for the Grateful Dead, having played in the band from 1990 until its demise in 1995. Before that, Welnick was a long-time member of the Tubes. His age is in dispute; his publicist says he was 51, but other sources say he was 55. Check out this article in the San Francisco Chronicle; the headline says he was 55, but the first paragraph says he was 51.

Here is the eerie part: all four of the Grateful Dead's former keyboardists are now dead. Original keyboardist Ron "Pigpen" McKernan died in 1973 from a liver ailment. His replacement, Keith Godchaux, was killed in a car accident in 1980, shortly after he was asked to leave the band. The third keyboardist, Brent Mydland, died of a drug overdose in 1990. Band spokesman Dennis McNally said:

"It's not a happy history. Each one of these guys had a fragility, which isn't that uncommon for musicians."

That quote helps to provide some insight into why so many people in the music business die at early ages.