Of the many keyboardists in the Grateful Dead’s history, the longest-tenured of them all was Brent Mydland. The San Francisco musician joined up with the Dead in 1979, adding his bountiful singing and piano talents to a band coming out an era of the late-70s which many consider their strongest ever. By contributing vocal harmonies, songwriting, and phenomenal live playing alongside Jerry Garica, the younger Mydland helped push the band through the tumultuous years of the 1980s.
Brent’s presence ultimately helped kickstart the Dead’s comeback starting in 1987 with the release of In The Dark, but his story, like many who played keys for the band, came with an early ending.
Struggling with the Grateful Dead lifestyle and a divorce, Mydland turned to drinking and eventually harder drugs to cope with his newfound fame. He died of an overdose on July 26th, 1990, just days after the Dead’s summer tour had ended. To add to the strangeness of his demise, Brent’s final performance on July 23rd, 1990 came 10 years to the day after the death of Keith Godchaux, the former Dead keyboardist who Mydland had replaced after the band had asked him and his wife Donna Jean Godchaux to leave in 1979, shortly after which the keyboardist died in a car accident the following year.
The band’s final performance with Mydland on the 1990 summer tour took place at the World Music Theater in the village of Tinley Park, IL. Interestingly, the last song Brent sang was a cover of The Band‘s “The Weight” on which he took the line, “I got to go, but my friends can stick around.”
In honor of Brent Mydland and his Grateful legacy, revisit his last-ever show via the audio player below.
Grateful Dead – World Music Theater – Tinley Park, IL – 7/23/90
[Audio: Jonathan Aizen] [Originally published 7/23/16]