Keyboard player Merl Saunders has died at the age of 74.
The musician, who collaborated with acts including Miles Davis and the Grateful Dead, passed away on Friday (24Oct08) at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco, California after complications following a stroke in 2002.
In a statement posted on his website, Saunders' family says: "We loved him very much - and we know that you, his fans, did too. He was a special man, a beautiful companion, father, grandfather, and family patriarch, and the proof of that spirit is in the way you've reached out to us at his passing."
Born in San Mateo, California, Saunders went to high school with Johnny Mathis in San Francisco, and one of his early performances was at a school event with Mathis.
During the 1960s and 1970s, he teamed up with the Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia, and recorded two records as The Saunders-Garcia Band. In 1990, the pair released the new age-style album Blues from the Rainforest.
Saunders is survived by his longtime companion Deborah Hall, his two sons and a daughter.