Bruce Hornsby will forever be known for the hit pop song of 1986 ‘The Way It Is’. The soft rock hero was to put a hold on his own career and joined the rock band The Grateful Dead. The oddest lineup in the history of music, Bruce and the band went on to achieve great heights no one else could.
Bruce was already a fan of the band. His brother also had a Grateful Dead cover band. Hornsby had also opened for the Grateful Dead a number of times. When Grateful Dead Keyboardist Brent Mydland accidentally overdosed and died, the group was in shambles. They had yet to finish their run of shows at Madison Square Garden. Bruce had guested with the Dead at a number of shows ranging years between 1988 and 1990. While the first option after such chaos in the band would have been the cancellation of the tour but they had the perfect replacement.
Hornsby with The Wall Street Journal in 2015 said, “The morning after he died, I was in Seattle walking down the street and someone came up to me on the street – Brent hadn’t been gone nine hours – and someone came up to me and said, ‘Hey Bruce, you joining the Dead?'” He added, “It was so insane. The next week, Garcia and Phil [Lesh] came to my show at the Concord Pavilion and asked me to do it.”
Joining the band meant that he had to put a hold on his own solo career. And he had pulled a lot of hard work, a whole decade. That’s when he proposed a different concept. “I stated, ‘I’ll definitely provide help to out by this time, ’trigger I do know that is tough, however, I’ve bought this factor of my very own going fairly nicely. I’ve spent numerous times making an attempt to get this factor off the bottom, and it’s off the bottom now. If this had occurred in 1984, then I’d have lived fortunately ever after being your piano participant'”. Bruce explained in the e-book This Is All a Dream We Dreamed. He added,
“In 1990, I had 4 or 5 years of good success in my very own group, so I did that. I informed them they wanted to search for somebody everlasting.”
The band added Vince Welnick, former keyboardist for The Tubes, and Todd Rundgren. He could replicate himself with the band’s vocal blend. He auditioned and assumed that his main work was with the piano there. Then, there was two keyboard lineup in the Grateful Dead.
However, by 1991, the band started to function totally as a band. Bom Weir explained, “Bruce is spectacularly colorful and real playful, And Vince is finally becoming real solid. He’s starting to become a real fixture. His influence on the music is subtler right now, but as pervasive as Bruce’s. Vince is a little more integrated into what we’re doing now than I see Bruce becoming. Bruce more or less imposes his personality on the band – which is not a band thing at all. Vince has been endeavoring to become one of us, whereas Bruce is just playing with us.”
Bruce had his own music career on the back. He told The Los Angeles Times, “I loved playing with them for more than a year and a half, more than 100 shows, and I just had twins and want to spend more time with them, and I want to focus on my own music again.”
Before he left the band, Hornsby expressed his dissatisfaction. It was with the live structure approach to music. He pointed out to ‘Space’. In ‘This is All a Dream We Dreamed’ he explained, “In the end, I said it was time for Vince to be the guy, time for me to go, They understood; they said ‘fine.'”
Bruce shared, “‘Space’ to me was a situation where sometimes it was really amazing, and a lot of times it was not. It was a real hit-or-miss proposition, I think the Dead would say the same thing. Sometimes ‘Space’ would get into some great things, other times I’d be sitting there, ‘I don’t really see where this is going…”
He continued on sharing, “‘Space’ to me was a situation where sometimes it was really amazing, and a lot of times it was not. It was a real hit-or-miss proposition, I think the Dead would say the same thing. Sometimes ‘Space’ would get into some great things, other times I’d be sitting there, ‘I don’t really see where this is going…”
He shared that the improvision of the music was something very hard. He said, “I know a lot of players in the jazz world who play freely, and a lot of them tell me, ‘More times than not, we’re up there scuffling to find something to play together.’ This was no different. If there’s no structure, it makes it much harder for the music to be coherent and have meaning.”
By the looks of it, looks like the band’s non-confrontational attitude helped in Bruce’s desire to move on. He said, “I’m all for playing freely, but I’ve been in too many instances where I’ve thought that the level of listening was not up to the demands that are required for this sort of playing to really be meaningful. Sometimes I felt that there were real conversations going on between people, and other times I didn’t.”
Finally, Hornsby decided to depart in 1992. Still, Bruce occasionally sat with the Dead and jammed his way out. He also inducted the band in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. He also enthusiastically joined the career-closing Fare Thee Well reunion show in 2015. There was never anything like a Grateful Dead concert, and there probably still isn’t,” Bruce revealed to Daily Press. “That was the archetype of the jam artist. That was the paradigm.”