Just catching this first thing Saturday morning…
Vince Welnick, 55, who played keyboards with the Grateful Dead for five years before the death of band founder Jerry Garcia, died Friday.
Sonoma County sheriffs said he was taken, injured, from his home in rural Forestville near Santa Rosa, to a local hospital.
He died there, police said.
An unofficial spokesman at the Welnick home said, “It looks like he took his own life.” But that is not known for sure, he said. “The family is very grieved, and trying to figure it all out.”
It makes me quiver whenever the thought that someone took their own life is even a possibility, let alone confirmed. Truly a sad day.
Update (6/5): Suicide has been confirmed as the cause of death. Ugh.
In the forum post entitled “Goodbye my friend…” written by the Mike Lawson, Vince Welnick’s webmaster…
Vince Welnick is gone. He was the sweetest human I have ever known. Kind, generous, funny and warm hearted. He was my friend. He was talented, so fucking talented. I was lucky to know him. So, damned lucky to know him and Lori. God bless you, Lori. I’m so, so sorry.
Vince never got over the cruel way that the Grateful Dead band members treated him after Jerry died. He never got over the sorrow of losing Jerry, facing his own demons without his friend and could not understand how the remaining fellow band-members treated him like shit the past several years.
I cannot possibly describe to you the hurt and anguish he felt when “The Dead” decided to have a “Family Reunion of the SURVIVING MEMBERS” of Grateful Dead, a band that he was no mere sideman for its last five years, but a full member of by order of Jerry Garcia. How damned insulting was it to have a “surviving members family reunion” and not invite your new brother? He was the proverbial red-headed step-child to them. Did it occur to you how that hurt him, Bill, Bob, Phil, Mickey? The truth is that you selfish bastards did not care if it hurt him. He’s a big boy, he just had to get over it, right?
I remember seeing Todd Rundgen at the “Walk Down Abbey Road” show in Concord, CA around the same time when that “Family Reunion” was booked. He asked how Vince was, and I told him about this “family reunion” concert of SURVIVING MEMBERS and how Vince was specifically not invited, but in fact was playing a gig at a campground not far from the show. Todd said, “Uh, Vince isn’t dead, isn’t he a surviving member?” He got the irony. I got the irony, but I also saw the hurt like none of you can believe. Vince kept a brave face about it, trying to remain cheerful, hoping that somehow, someday the tide would turn, the phone would ring and it would be Bob Weir calling him. Calling just to say, “How are you, Vinny?” Something. Anything.
I am certain that Jerry would have been completely disgusted with the terrible, cruel and despicable way that Vince was treated by the band, the management, etc. following his death. The lack of compassion displayed toward him, the ostracizing he felt burned and hurt Vince very deeply. He was a sensitive, sweet soul. He just couldn’t handle the rejection. He and I spent hours and hours talking about these things, trying to get the demons out, which led to him pouring out his heart when that show happened, right on this website.
I told Vince to get his story out, tell everybody what happened on that Ratdog bus, tell them everything. Tell them how Bob and Ratdog sent him, having overdosed on the tour bus, to a hospital alone in the back of a taxi cab, without a friend in site, and had him checked in as John Doe, while they played the show anyway. Tell them, Vince how you were despondent over facing life-threatening cancer, a simultaneous diagnosis of Emphysema, and instead of staying home to try to heal and get immediate surgery, how you chose to give the fans the ill-fated summer 95 Dead tour. Tell them how nobody in the band even acknowledged, though they damned well knew, that Vince was very sick.
Tell them Vince, I said, how you didn’t want to let the fans and the band down, and how eery it was on the tour knowing all these people who were your “friends” never asked how you were while on the road or even stepped aside with you to acknowledge that struggle you were facing. Tell everyone, Vince, how when you returned from the road, and Jerry was dead, how you were flung into the hell of depression facing lung disease, cancer and now your friend dying, and how you saw your world crash around you ever more when months later the band unceremoniously announced it was over. Tell them Vince, tell everyone and get the demons out.
Even more amazing than the band being cold to him, I could never understand why so-called “dead heads” and “fans” spent hours coming into this site and fucking with Vince, taunting him, posting evil, nasty lies about him. I finally had to turn this into a registration-only website to help shield my friend from the cruelness that some people took sport in on the message boards. Vince could take a joke, he could take a lot, but he finally couldn’t take any more.
I had long, heart to heart talks with him for months before he told some of that story to you here, though not even close to all that detail. Vince didn’t want to hurt the other guys, he just fucking wanted to play with them.
Do you hear me, Phil? Do you hear me, Mickey? Do you hear me, Bobby? Do you hear me, Bill? That’s all he fucking wanted, was to play music with you guys. He loved you and you fucking treated him like shit. To see your “heartfelt” message on Dead.net today sickens me to no end, you fucking bunch of lying hypocrites. There is nothing left to hold back on now. Is it so hard to return the man’s phone calls? Is it so hard to understand what he went through back then and how far he had come since that dreadful night on that Ratdog bus? Where is the love? Where is the compassion? Hippy love? Bull-fucking-shit. You guys could have been nice to him, invited him along, not made him feel like an ass and like he was bugging you if he called. Are you happy, Cameron? Are you? Go fuck yourself.
Welnick was not without his demons. In 2003, the keyboard told Relix/Jambands.com, “I tried to off myself in the RatDog bus in ‘95, right before Christmas, right after The Dead died. I pretty much hit bottom there and I’m sure that hasn’t helped my popularity with Bobby. I think that shook him up so much, and the other members of the band so much, that it contributed to why I am no longer being called to participate.” But, he did avoid certain trappings. “I coughed a pretty good attitude [laughs], but I didn’t get into heroin,” Welnick says. “I never used needles, never used freebase and that kind of stuff. I drew that line as a kid. No needles, no freebase, no heroin and never broke that promise myself.”
Welnick is the fourth keyboard player for the band to have died, and his Web site referred to the position as a “particularly doomed spot.”
He once told an interviewer, “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.”
In an extension of the band’s “curse of the keyboard player,” Scott Larned, cofounder and keyboard player for the nationally-touring Grateful Dead tribute band Dark Star Orchestra, died last year of a heart attack.
Vince Welnick | Wikipedia