Remembering Pigpen

Rob Slater on March 9, 2016

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”