Today in 1973, Ronald Charles McKernan, affectionately known as Pigpen, was found dead of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage, joining the tragic 27 Club that would include names like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain. Pigpen was a founding member of the Grateful Dead, playing in the band from 1965-1972.
In a touching tribute on his website, Mickey Hart recalls his first interaction with Pigpen and the group. “When I first met the Grateful Dead, it was Pigpen and the boys,” he notes. “It was a blues band. Pigpen was a kind man. He looked so hard, but he was a kind, soft man.”
Below, revisit some Pigpen-led tunes from the Dead’s history.
“Next Time You See Me”
“Hard to Handle”
“It Hurts Me Too”
“Turn on Your Lovelight”