Wednesday, June 07, 2006

: )

It’s so easy to spread rumors when on the net
You can be anonymous, how easy can it get?
Wild comments made about folks never met
They wouldn’t say that shit in person, I bet

“Greedy musicians pulled their archived shows”
“This band member hates that,” and so it goes
People think that icons who are larger than life
Can’t be cut by their written word knife

Is this why we all jumped on the Bus?
Is this the comedown/hangover for us?
Three keyboards, mouth harp and guitar
In one Celestial Jam, Eternal Dark Star.
-SLC Library Boy


by John Perry Barlow

The Dreadful Great, among our other bad habits, had a reliable propensity for killing off keyboard players. It was a kind of ritual sacrifice, I suppose, but the really terrible aspect of these departures was the bottomless sorrow that drove out of the physical world Ron "Pigpen"Mckernen, Keith Godshaux, Brent Midland, and now, on June 2, Vince Welnick.

Like all of his previously mentioned colleagues, Vince killed himself. But unlike them, he did it very explicitly, using means too appalling for even me to relate.

The Coroner's Reports for his predecessors were some what more ambiguous when it came to conscious involvement in their deaths. Pigpen very clearly drank himself to death, though, given the nature of alcoholism, I suspect that even in his last moments, he was surprised to find himself at Death's Driveway. Keith was a passenger in the car wreck that killed him. Brent did his best to tread on the slimy serpent of Thanatos coiled in inside him. And I did my best to argue it back with songs that, as it ironically happened, only amplified the love he could not stand, the approval he was not psychologically equipped to reconcile with his own lousy self-image.

I remember the time when Brent died better than I wish I did. Time magazine, ever the supercilious snot-nose, honored me with the "George Orwell Doublespeak Award, " as the result of an interview with me in Rolling Stone, conducted the day after the event, in which I declared that he had "died of rock 'n' roll, " when it was plainly obvious that he succumbed to a drug overdose. (Upon winning this dubious distinction, I wrote a letter to the editor of Time in which I said, among other things, that "anybody who can't tell the difference between metaphor and euphemism probably can't tell the difference between poetry and lies." They didn't publish it, of course.

Like the rest of his doomed and gifted predecessors, Vince was a strangely sweet man, apparently too empathetic to endure the cruelties of this world. He had a passion he brought to his music that was electric, a quality that, like his personal shyness, he also shared with them. Writing songs with Vince was - as I've said of the same marvelous process with Brent - the most intimate thing I ever did with a man.

When Jerry Garcia died, Vince was alone among us in his wretched sense of utter loss. He attempted suicide about six months later, thereby 86ing himself from any further creative interaction with what was left of the Grateful Dead.

As a culture, we were never big on emotional vulnerability. Like a caribou herd, we had learned, over a long period of time, to leave our cripples behind on the tundra rather than risk the entire local genome. That's life,Dude. Devil take the hindmost.

At one point, shortly following his suicide attempt and consequent exile, Iwent up to Forestville, California to encourage him. He was still in a heart-rendingly desolate state.

We wrote a song the lyrics of which went like this:


Forestville, California , Thursday, January 11, 1996

What do you want from me?
Whatever it is, I am fresh out of it.
Ain't nothing here to see,
Best move along,
There ain't no doubt of it.
I get up in the morning, I go to bed at night
The hours in between seem to pass without a sight
No sight of mystery, no magic round the bend
No expectations 'cept a few I don't intend at all...

Look out on the sea
Big as it is, that's only the top of it.
Down at the bottom of the sea
You can sink forever
Cause there's no stop to it.
No end of trouble, no end of pain
No end of people to tell you you're to blame
No end to this world
And nowhere to go,
Except the music must have ended a long time ago.

So I am waiting for...
Waiting for...
Waiting for something strong.
Waiting for something to sing about
Waiting for the song to come.

When it does, there will light again
There will be colors in the world and birds across the sun
And everything that's been going down so hard
Will be coming right again...

But I'm still waiting...
I'm still waiting...
I'm still waiting for the song to come.

Meanwhile, I got you,
Your tender words and all the little good they do.
Meanwhile, you got me
Ain't no great prize, but at least it comes for free.
It's an act of conviction, baby, simply holding on
Keeping forward motion, pretending to be strong,
Listening with all my heart for voices in the wind
That will be singing for us,
Baby, when the song begins again.

Till then I'm waiting...
I'm still waiting...
Waiting for something strong
Waiting for something to sing about
Waiting for the song to come.

When it does, there will light again
There will be colors in the world and birds across the sun
And everything that's been going down so hard
Will be coming right again...

But I'm still waiting...
I'm still waiting...I'm still waiting for the song to come.

As I recall it, this song had a stark and yet occasionally soaring melody. Vince orchestrated it on his beautiful Bösendorfer piano as though he were Beethovan writing a requiem. And now I can't remember a single note of it. It was all in his lovely head and has died there.

Several weeks ago, he called me. He sounded upbeat. He was talking about getting together with me and writing some songs. He told me that he was working on reuniting The Tubes, his original - and marvelously peculiar -band. I was into the idea of writing some new stuff with him, just for the fun of it. And it had been fun, even in our darkest moments. (Perhaps it was fun precisely because of the surrounding bleakness.)

I told him I'd make of point of riding my motorcycle up to Forestville the next time I was on the Left Coast.

I wish I'd done that. But then I wish a lot of things.

When my friend Spalding Grey committed suicide, I wrote this about clinical depression, a nightmare I've experienced myself: Fighting clinical depression is inevitably a lonely struggle. What could be less conducive to compassion than a disease that make you whine? Laymen and loved ones tell you to get a grip. They make you feel ashamed to be sick. Even if they're more enlightened about the disease, they can't help but harbor a secret, naturally human, belief that you are suffering a failure of will rather than biochemistry. Meanwhile, the doctors consider little but the neuro-soup and turn you into a shambling medical experiment, testing pharmaceutical nostrums on you that are as blunt as the mind is subtle,though just as unpredictable. But, for you, life just trudges on. It remains, despite whatever visible signs of well-being - wonderful spouse, great kids, well-located house, etc. - a purgatory of uselessness, barren ofjoy and meaning. Love, incoming or out-going, becomes something you think, not feel.

How can we ask of anyone that they insist on living in such a world as this? How can we be so arrogant as judge anyone harshly for taking a pass on such demanding material manifestation? I loved Vince Welnick. I wish, of course, that I'd been able to show him that love in a manner that would sustained him. But, once one has been pitched down that hole, it strikes me that he ought to enter a condition of general amnesty. He took something from me that I cherished, but I certainly won't hold it against him.

RIP Vince...WE love you!!


Anonymous Helen said...

I hate reading all the trash being thrown around. Rumors, gossip. Certainly no way to honor a brother who gave us so much. An excellent post. Thanks SLC.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006  

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