On The Passing Of Mikey Welsh

It’s strange to think of Weezer as having a “tragic figure” (aside from the perpetually heart-swollen Rivers Cuomo), but that’s exactly the role Mikey Welsh played. Welsh, who was found dead Saturday in a Chicago hotel room from a suspected drug overdose, famously struggled with the pressures of major label rock stardom when he replaced founding bassist Matt Sharp for Weezer’s big year 2000 comeback. By his own admission, the Syracuse-born musician suffered a drug-induced nervous breakdown during the year he performed with the band, finally leaving Weezer in August of 2001 to pursue the more leisurely career of painting.

Welsh played on only one full Weezer recording, 2001’s Weezer (a.k.a. The Green Album), the album most discouraged fans point to as the last instance in which the band was any good. That subject will of course remain open for debate until the human race is extinct; if you care, yes, these ears find that Green’s breezy melancholy is one Weezer hasn’t been very successful in replicating on successive efforts, but let’s retread that well-worn ground another time. The important thing right now is that I can’t hear any part of The Green Album without thinking about Mikey Welsh. Welsh played smoothly from “Don’t Let Go” to “O Girlfriend,” and his glowering expression on the album’s sharp lime cover contrasts rather humorously with his band mates’ expressionless stares.

It’s unfortunate that the evidence is suggesting Welsh never fully got a handle on his personal problems, and for that reason the world’s now been robbed of an energetic, fashionable musician who proved to be an equally talented painter. It hardly seems fair when we have people shitheads like Pat Robertson and Fred Phelps still puttering around. Where’s the justice in that?

Mikey Welsh, born Michael Edward Welsh in April of 1971, is survived by a wife, two children, and Lord knows how many fans of alt rock. He will be missed.

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