Posted tagged ‘Merl Saunders’

Former Grateful Dead Keyboardist Dies

October 26, 2008

Merl Saunders, a jazz and rock keyboardist who collaborated with iconic acts including Miles Davis and the Grateful Dead, has died at the age of 74.

From the Associated Press:

Saunders died Friday at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco of complications due to a stroke, said his son, Merl Saunders Jr.

“We loved him very much — and we know that you, his fans, did too,” his family said in a statement posted on Saunders’ Web site. “He was a special man, a beautiful companion, father, grandfather, and family patriarch, and the proof of that spirit is in the way you’ve reached out to us at his passing.”

Born in San Mateo, Calif., Saunders attended high school with Johnny Mathis in San Francisco. One of Saunders’ very first performances was a high school event with Mathis, Saunders Jr. said.

Some of Saunders’ most famous music was made in the 1960s and 1970s when he teamed up with the Grateful Dead’s lead guitarist and singer, Jerry Garcia. The Saunders-Garcia Band recorded two records in the 1970s and the two would play together on an array of projects until Garcia’s death in 1995.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

The 74-year-old musician suffered a debilitating stroke 6 1/2 years ago and, although he lost the ability to speak, he made numerous sentimental guest appearances at shows over those years playing with one hand.

“I never met anybody so happy who had a stroke,” said Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart. “In the end, the only thing that lit him up was the music. Sometimes he’d cry, but I’ve never seen anybody so happy in the realm of music.”

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