Briefly Dead Tom Constanten

Briefly Dead Tom Constanten

Woodstock alum
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Happy birthday
March 19, 1944
(above: Tom playing “Mountains of the Moon” at Wofford College on Jan 13, 2009)
Tom Constanten
On Wednesday, August 29, 2012, former Grateful Dead keyboardist, composer and piano instructor Tom Constanten told stories from his long career and performed as part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s Hall of Fame Series.
Briefly Dead Tom Constanten

Tom Constanten

Being a keyboardist with the Grateful Dead has often been unlucky.  Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (age 27), Keith Godchaux (32), Brent Mydland (37) and Vince Welnick (55) all died shortly after or during their time with the Dead. 

Tom Constanten is happy to have escaped that club.

Briefly Dead Tom Constanten

Becoming Dead

According to the Grateful Dead site,Phil Lesh was standing in line at Cal Berkeley’s music department in 1961 when he overheard a young man, Tom Constanten by name, remark that Music stopped being created in 1750 and began again in 1950. They shook hands, and became friends for life. Shortly after, T.C. persuaded Phil to apply for a special class in electronic composition at Mills College with Luciano Berio, which would become one of the touchstones of Lesh’s life. As the Grateful Dead emerged and began to create, Phil returned the favor to T.C., who became the Dead’s advisor/keyboard creative spirit, altering normal piano sounds by inserting combs, Dutch dimes, and a gyroscope into the body of the keyboard, as they recorded the masterpiece avant garde albums Anthem of the Sun and Aoxomoxoa. He joined the touring band in November 1968, and amicably departed in January 1970, feeling that he was underamplified … and in so doing avoided the curse of the Dead keyboard seat.”

Briefly Dead Tom Constanten

After Dead

 From the All Music site: “After the Dead, Constanten  spent the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s mostly in the Bay Area, creating odd compositions, teaching piano, and playing shows around the periphery of the Dead scene. He composed for the theater with some success, including the off-Broadway play Tarot… ultimately winning a silver medal in the New York Critics’ Circle Poll. In 1986, he was an artist in residence at Harvard University. 

Briefly Dead Tom Constanten

Neck injury

In August 16, 2016 he posted at his Facebook page, “Fell down and broke my neck last Wednesday. Just like they warned me about as a kid.
I’d driven up to the Post Office at the top of the hill to mail off a bill, and, knowing there was heavy rain in the forecast, figured it would be better to mail it off inside. I parked the car, and on the way in a bit of uneven pavement tripped me up. I fell, face first, onto the concrete.
I am so very grateful for the woman who spotted me right away and called 911.”

Briefly Dead Tom Constanten

Recovery and continued touring

He has recovered and in July 2017 returned to Bethel, NY to visit the site of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair and the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts with his sister Susan and son Jeff.

Briefly Dead Tom Constanten

He has released five solo  albums

Nightfall of Diamonds (1992)

Constanten, Tom - Nightfall of Diamonds - Music

Morning Dew (1993)

Constanten, Tom - Morning Dew - Music

Grateful Dreams (2000)


88 Keys to Tomorrow (2002)

Tom Constanten - 88 Keys to Tomorrow - Music

and Moved to Stanleyville (2006)

CONSTANTEN,TOM/FOUST,KEN - Moved To Stanleyville - Music

As you can see from the above album cover,  Constanten has also  collaborated. Dose Hermanos is the improvisational piano duo of Constanten and Bob Bralove.

They’ve released six albums: , Sonic Roar Shock (1997), Live From California (1998), Search for Intelligent Life (2000), Bright Shadows (2004), Batique (2014), and Persistence of Memory (2022).


Briefly Dead Tom Constanten

Bob Dylan Bob Dylan album

Bob Dylan Bob Dylan album

Happy Anniversary
Released on March 19, 1962
“You’re No Good” (Jesse Fuller) 
Bob Dylan Bob Dylan album

Dylan arrives

Bob Dylan had arrived in New York City on January 24, 1961 and visited his hero Woody Guthrie on the 29th.

John Hammond’s liner notes on the back of Dylan’s first album state:  “The young man from the provinces began to make friends very quickly in New York, all the while continuing, as he has since he was ten, to assimilate musical ideas from everyone he met, every record he heard.”

Dylan plays

On April 11 Dylan played his first major gig in New York City, opening for bluesman John Lee Hooker at Gerde’s Folk City.

He played harmonica on a Harry Belafonte’s “Midnight Special” thus receiving his first money for as a recorded musician.

Bob Dylan Bob Dylan album

More Friends, More Shows

He met Suze Rotolos. Albert Grossman became his manager.

On September 29, 1961, Robert Shelton of the New York Times wrote of Dylan that he was, “A bright new face in folk music… Although only 20 years old, Bob Dylan is one of the most distinctive stylists to play in a Manhattan cabaret in months.” 

He’d played Carnegie Chapter Hall.

Bob Dylan Bob Dylan album

Bob Dylan

And then he recorded his first album: Bob Dylan.

Bob Dylan Bob Dylan album
album cover

It sold 5,000 copies in the first year.

Here is it’s tracklist and notice how few songs this supreme songwriter and future Nobel Prize winner wrote for this album:

Side one               

  1. “You’re No Good”  (Jesse Fuller)
  2. “Talkin’ New York”
  3. “In My Time of Dyin'”  arr. Dylan
  4. “Man of Constant Sorrow”  arr. Dylan
  5. “Fixin’ to Die”  (Bukka White)
  6. “Pretty Peggy-O” arr. Dylan
  7. “Highway 51” (Curtis Jones)
Side two               

  1. “Gospel Plow”  arr. Dylan
  2. “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down”  arr. Eric von Schmidt
  3. “House of the Risin’ Sun”  arr. Dave Van Ronk
  4. “Freight Train Blues”  (Roy Acuff)
  5. “Song to Woody”
  6.  “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”  (Blind Lemon Jefferson)

That number would be two: Talkin’ New York and Song to Woody.

The All Music site sums it up wellBob Dylan’s first album is a lot like the debut albums by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones — a sterling effort, outclassing most, if not all, of what came before it in the genre, but similarly eclipsed by the artist’s own subsequent efforts.

Bob Dylan Bob Dylan album