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KEITH GODCHAUX
BIOGRAPHY

GRATEFUL DEAD BIOGRAPHES: KEITH GODCHAUX

Birth Named: Keith Richard Godchaux

DOB: July 19, 1948

Born Seattle Washington

Died: July 23, 1980 Marin County CA car accident

Is my favorite of the Dead’s Keyboardist. His Ragtime/bluesy chops always get my spine tingling, not so much to dance, as to recognize the melodies surrounding me. His innate grasp of the fundamental building blocks of boogie-woogie astounds me to this day.

His family moved to Concord Cal. When he was a young. His father a Dixieland musician nudged his son into piano lessons starting at the age of five. Keith excelled at the instrument and as a young adult played with Dave Mason, and a Canadian band ‘James & The Good Brothers’. Betty Cantor produced their album and knew Keith which gave Donna a chance to meet Jerry and convince him to give her husband an audition. At the time Pigpen’s health deteriorated quickly, preventing him from touring in late 71.

When wife Donna and he joined the band they enabled the Dead to explore realms of music previously beyond their grasp. With his beard and mustache his appearance brought to mind a magician who could evoke modular passages from the ivory portals. His intense run of cascading notes vibrate with a profound destiny bourn of astral journeys.

One night he might sound like a gospel revival, on the next a Dixieland carnival relic. On rock and roll numbers he banged the keys with knowledgeable abandon. When the band downshifted to a blues progression, he could ease smoothly into the grove. Unfortunately he was mired in a losing battle with smack and started to nod during jams.

An extended separation followed which was both draining and painful for the entire band.

His sense of timing and the ability to oppose the bass than vocals at a turn puts him with the great pianists of any era. Keith plugged right into the flow of Grateful Dead inner-band communication. He understood the musical language joined in the conversations. What a compliment to Weir’s power chords, Jerry’s stinging melody and Lesh’s modular rumblings.

In late 79 Keith and Donna left the Grateful Dead by mutual consent. They formed the Heart of Gold Band. Not long after their first concert, Keith Richard Godchaux was killed on July 23rd 1980 in an automobile accident.

Cannot express my admiration for his contribution to my Gestalt of being. He brought a bounce to my step a grin to my mug and a general sensation of balance in this twisted cosmos where we dwell. I hope he’s jamming with Bob Marley, Merle Saunders and of course, Brent and Jerry.

 

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