Brent Mydland

Brent Mydland (October 21, 1952-July 26, 1990) was the fourth keyboardist to play for the American rock band the Grateful Dead. He was with the band for eleven years, longer than any other keyboardist.

Early life

Born in Munich, Germany as the child of a U.S. Army chaplain, Mydland moved to San Francisco, California with his parents at the age of one. Mydland spent most of his childhood living in the San Joaquin-Sacramento/Delta's Bethel Island of California. His mother, a graveyard shift nurse, encouraged Mydland's talents by insisting that he practice his music for two hours each day. He played trumpet at Oakley Elementary School; his schoolmates remember him practicing on an accordion, as well as the piano, every day after school. Mydland graduated from Liberty Union High School in 1971.

Grateful Dead

In 1978, Brent Mydland had played in a Bob Weir solo project called the Bob Weir Band. In April 1979, he joined the Grateful Dead, replacing Keith Godchaux, who had left the band in February of that year. Mydland was also in another of Weir's bands, Bobby and the Midnites, in 1980 and 1981. Mydland's last show with The Grateful Dead was on 23 July 1990 at The World Music Theater (now Tweeter Center) in Tinley Park, IL.  Mydland quickly became an integral part of the Dead, not least because of his songwriting contributions. Go to Heaven (1980) featured two of Mydland's songs,Far From Me and Easy to Love You the second of which had been written with frequent Weir collaborator John Perry Barlow. On the next album, In the Dark (1987), Mydland co-wrote the defiant favorite Hell in a Bucket with Weir and Barlow, and also penned the train song Tons of Steel. Built to Last (1989) featured several more of Mydland's works, most notably the moody Just a Little Light, the environmental song We Can Run and the poignant, I Will Take You Home, written with Barlow for Mydland's two daughters. Mydland easily fit into the band's sound and added his own contributions. His high vocal harmonies and emotional leads added to the band's singing strength, and highlighted several old favorites like Cassidy, Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo,Ramble on usually preferred the piano. Mydland played several different electric pianos and synthesizers throughout his tenure, including Rose as well as covers like Traffic's, Dear Mr. Fantasy and the Band's The Weight. Mydland enjoyed the organ and several other experimental tones, whereas in concert, his predecessor hada Fender Rhodes, the early Yamaha digital synth GS-1 (now owned by Rob Barraco of Dark Star Orchestra), Yamaha CP-70, and a Kurzweil Midiboard (midied to Roland MKS20). His Hammond B-3 stayed with him throughout his entire tenure.


Mydland died of a drug overdose after taking a speedball at his home on my Road in Lafayette, California, on July 26, 1990, shortly after completing the band's summer tour. He was replaced by Vince Welnick on synthesizers and vocals, and, for a short time, temporary fill-in Bruce Hornsby on grand piano and accordion.