Photo by Bob Minkin via Sweet Relief

Longtime RatDog bassist Robin Sylvester passed away today. The news was first announced by former RatDog guitarist Mark Karan and later confirmed to Relix and In a post Karan said, “I can’t believe what I just heard. Our dear, sweet Robin Sylvester has passed & left us all with a big ol’ hole in our hearts…I’m speechless & gutted.”

Born in Hampstead, London in 1950, Sylvester started his musical career playing with the a cappella London Boy Singers chorus. He later worked at Abbey Roads studios while The Beatles were recording “The White Album,” which inspired him to pick up the bass. A multi-instrumentalist, he experimented with synthesizers early on and also worked as a guitarist and arranger. After backing actress/singer Dana Gillespie, he relocated to the US in 1974 and performed with his folk outfit The Movies, who Clive Davis signed to Arista. He also scored studio credits with The Beach Boys and Ry Cooder, and performed with Marty Balin, The Coasters, The Drifters, Billy Preston, Christine McVie, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and many others. He first entered the Dead’s orbit when he scored a spot in Vince Welnick’s Missing Man Formation.

Sylvester officially joined RatDog in early 2003, following the departure of founding bassist Rob Wasserman. (Karan initially recommenced him for the gig after sharing a number of bills with his various outfits.) He continued to perform with RatDog as the project’s lineup evolved, remaining as part of the ensemble even after Wasserman rejoined years later. However, Sylvester missed a number of shows in 2012 while awaiting a kidney transplant. He has been hospitalized for several months, several times, in recent years while awaiting a kidney transplant and Sweet Relief has set up a fun to help pay his medical bills.

Since linking up with Weir, he has has also performed with Dead-associated Bay Area projects like Ghosts of Electricity, Melvin Seals & JGB, David Nelson & Friends, Jemimah Puddleduck and The Rubber Souldiers.

RatDog has been inactive since 2014, though a version of the band featuring Sylvester performed at the Sing Out for Sight benefit a year later. Wasserman passed away in 2016 and Don Was has been Weir’s steady bassist with Wolf Bros.

An official cause of death was not available at press time.