Vince Welnick, the Grateful Dead's last keyboard player and a veteran of other bands, including the Tubes and Missing Man Formation, has died, the Grateful Dead's longtime publicist confirmed today (J

Vince Welnick, the Grateful Dead's last keyboard player and a veteran of other bands, including the Tubes and Missing Man Formation, has died, the Grateful Dead's longtime publicist confirmed today (June 3). He was 55.

Welnick died Friday, said Dennis McNally, who would not release the cause. He lived in the northern California town of Forestville, but McNally said he didn't know whether he died at home or in a hospital.

"His service to and love for the Grateful Dead were heartfelt and essential. He had a loving soul and a joy in music that we were lucky to share," the group said in a statement. "Our Grateful Dead prayer for the repose of his spirit: May the four winds blow him safely home."

Welnick was the last in a long line of Grateful Dead keyboardists, several of whom died prematurely, leading some of the group's fans to conclude that the position came with a curse.

Welnick had replaced Brent Mydland, who died of a drug overdose in 1990. Mydland succeeded Keith Godchaux, who died in a car crash shortly after leaving the band. And Godchaux had replaced the band's original keyboard player, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, who died at 27 in 1973.

Welnick was the last musician to join the group before the 1995 death of lead guitarist and unofficial leader Jerry Garcia, which McNally said hit Welnick particularly hard.

After struggling for several years after leaving the Tubes, Welnick had embraced the opportunity Garcia and the others gave him when they asked him to play keyboards in 1990. "To lose it within five years hurt him, I think, maybe worse than anybody else in the band," McNally said.


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