The Dead's Phil Lesh Remains Active Despite Poor Health Rumors

November 11, 1998 12:00 AM ET

Despite the fact that intimates keep whispering that Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh needs a liver transplant, the musician sat in this past Saturday (Nov. 6) with longtime Dead stalwart Bruce Hornsby during the latter's two-week stint at Yoshi's Jazz Club in Oakland, Calif.

Lesh had attended a Hornsby show earlier in the week with his family, and came back on the weekend with the intention of playing. Both Lesh and the Other Ones guitarist Steve Kimock joined Hornsby's band for the last forty-five minutes of their set, playing extended versions of Grateful Dead war-horses "Scarlet Begonias," "Loser" and "Tennessee Jed," as well as Hornsby's "Rainbow Cadillac." According to fans, Lesh looked "remarkably fit, and preppy in his sweater and khakis."

As a testimony to his health, it looks like Lesh plans to be "dropping some more bombs" in the near future -- which in Dead-ese means he plans to cut loose on his trademark bass. According to promoter Bill Graham Presents, Lesh will resume the benefit concerts for his Unbroken Chain Foundation that he had staged every other month this past year at the historic Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. His last show was held on August 8, before he fell ill. "We don't have a confirmed date for 'Phil & Friends,' but we are holding a tentative date around Christmas for him," a spokesperson at BGP said.

The Dead community has been in an uproar over Lesh's health after he was admitted to a Bay Area hospital on September 8; he reportedly underwent a battery of tests and treatment for a massive blockage to the liver. Deadheads first learned of the problem when Dead lyricist Robert Hunter posted the following message in the Dead.net:

"Phil went into intensive care Tuesday night with what looked like a critical liver problem. He seems stable now and will be able to go home." Dead archivist and nber publicist Dennis McNally attempted to nip all speculation about Lesh's health in the bud immediately, telling reporters that the fifty-eight-year-old bassist was "not in the realm of difficulty. He does have some long-term problems, but they're working on them."

On September 13, which just so happened to be Phil and Jill Lesh's fourteenth anniversary, the bassist's wife posted a message on the official home page for the Dead explaining that her husband "wants all of you to know that he feels as though he has been bathed in the infinite light of love from so many people and that he feels stronger every minute because of it." Adding "Please keep the prayers and healing energy coming, it's working."

The most recent speculation is that Lesh's problems are the result of Hepatitis C, the very same strain of the disease that caused Naomi Judd to forgo touring three years ago, and the same strain that she recently revealed that she was free from on Ralph Edward's show on TNN.

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