A Sad Farewell: Riverside’s Piotr Grudzinski, 1975-2016

Piotr GrudzinskiOver the weekend, the music world lost one of Poland’s greatest with the shocking death of Riverside guitarist Piotr Grudzinski. He was only 40 years old.

The cause of death is not yet known. According to Mike Portnoy, drummer for hard rock band The Winery Dogs, Grudzinski attended their show on Saturday night in Warsaw.

From the Riverside website:

In our deepest pain and disbelief we would like to inform you that our dearest friend and brother Piotr Grudzinski has passed away this morning. We kindly ask you to respect the privacy of his family and friends.

Riverside was in rehearsals for a tour of Poland in April followed by an upcoming headline slot at the prestigious Rites Of Spring (RosFest) progressive rock festival in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

The latest Riverside album, Love, Fear and the Time Machine, is the band’s most successful to date, topping the charts in several European countries as well as Poland. You can read my feature on it here.

It was also my personal pick for album of the year, for which Grudzinski sent a message of thanks, one of several times he did so. It would be presumptuous to say that we were friends, but when I first arrived in Poland, Piotr and bassist/vocalist Mariusz Duda were one of the first interviews I did, for the American magazine Progression.

Even after a lifetime of interviewing musicians, I was nervous. Like many Americans living here, I try to always be conscious of not living up to the cliché of the ‘ugly American.’ I was (and still am) very self- conscious about my lack of Polish language skills and was also concerned that there might be cultural differences that could affect the interview etiquette in ways I’d not yet learned – might I inadvertently say or do something off-putting or even offensive, for instance?

I needn’t have worried. Piotr and Mariusz were a complete joy – friendly, engaged, and justifiably excited about the masterpiece they were about to unleash on the world. They had literally handed the master recording of the new album to the record label the day before our meeting, and they couldn’t wait for people to hear it.

Months later, their show at Klub Studio here was, hands down, the best concert I’ve seen in Poland. Piotr’s playing was sublime, conjuring the best of everyone from Jeff Beck to Steve Hackett yet channeling it into something completely original.

Fittingly, the encore – the last two songs they played – bookend Piotr Grudzinski’s musical life perfectly. “The Same River,” the 12 minute opening epic from the 2004 Riverside debut Out Of Myself, illustrated the band’s, and Grudzinski’s, early knack for cleverly combining progressive rock and metal with a sense of drama, while “Found (The Unexpected Flaw of Searching)”, the finale of Love, Fear and the Time Machine, showed their growth as songwriters and musicians into purveyors of a more direct, gorgeously melodic, deceptively simple sounding kind of music possessing a rare sophistication and positivity.

As Grudzinski played the exquisite mellifluous chords, thousands held their lit phones aloft in silent rapt attention and Duda sang the affirmation…

Oooh, it’s a lovely life
You have gone so far
Don’t give it up
Oooh, it’s a lovely life
You gotta go with
What you think is right

The next day I wrote that it was a moment that took its place among such personal milestones as seeing Pink Floyd perform Dark Side of the Moon in 1974, Led Zeppelin play “Kashmir” three weeks before its release, seeing Nick Cave at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, and (British prog band) IQ perform their opus Subterranea, (to name a few – you get the idea), as one of the most memorable musical moments of my life.

Now, as my final memory of this great musician, it will remain one of my most treasured as well.

Niech spoczywa w pokoju.

Riverside - Piotr Grudzinski

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9 thoughts on “A Sad Farewell: Riverside’s Piotr Grudzinski, 1975-2016

  • February 23, 2016 at 4:40 am

    I was shocked to learn that he died yesterday. I am a huge fan of Riverside living in the USA and felt they were one of the best bands in the world today. Piotr’s guitar playing was very musical and atmospheric. His guitar playing reminded me of David Gilmour. This is a tragic loss for his family, friends, and for the world.

    • February 25, 2016 at 3:31 am

      I concur 100 percent
      Fine band
      Deserve much more respect

  • March 1, 2016 at 10:52 pm

    Still in shock and feel very sad for you gentlemen.
    My wife and I have a thing for finding unique and beautiful music and musicians. She one morning as we were waking up on sunday morning told me….. Babe I’ve found something your gonna love!!!!!! She preceded to put on Left Out. Holy shit! Was I blown away!!!!! We now have everything and anything of your music. We love you guys be strong and keep going….. Trecia and Henrik Hansen.

    RIP Piotr

  • March 2, 2016 at 12:49 am

    I fear we have lost one of the greatest guitar voices of all time.

    • March 3, 2016 at 5:50 pm

      Sitting here listening to the latest album right now, and feel the same way. Piotr, as well as the entire band, are easily one of the most underrated group of musicians of this generation. I’ve been a fan since 2005, and sadly being that I live in Virginia (U.S.A.), I never really got a chance to see the band perform live. I am just happy that I have been privileged enough to hear Piotr’s beautiful melodies and well places riffs over the past decade, and wish his family and his band mates well. Although I am still saddened by his passing, I can only imagine that this has effected them greatly. My thoughts and prayers are with all of them.

  • March 6, 2016 at 2:04 am

    I was waiting to go into the show in Chicago during the SONGS tour. Piotr came outside for a break during sound check and was very passionate in telling me how Riverside just wanted to put on a great show for the fans. I’ve seen them in concert at least 10 times-believe me, they always did. RIP Piotr.

  • March 6, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    While waiting outside the Chicago (USA) venue during a stop on the SONGS tour, Piotr stepped outside during a sound check break and struck up a conversation with me about how he and the band just wanted to put on a great show for the fans. I have seen Riverside at least 10 times-believe me they always did. RIP Piotr.

  • March 24, 2016 at 10:35 pm

    No more words to say… i am truly shocked… Thank you Piotr for your astonishing emotional music…. You will always be in my heart… Good bye, i will never forget you ! May you soul rest in peace ! ionut ( Romania)

  • February 26, 2018 at 7:14 pm

    It is two years and a couple of days after his untimely death and tonight is the night I get to play Through The Blue Horizon for Piotr on my ‘net radio free form show. And tonight will be no less sorrowful than the prior years. I only “discovered” Riverside in September 2015 when on the prodding of a good friend, Jimmy Robinson of the NJ Proghouse, I went to check them out in New Brunswick NJ. I walked out floored and having purchased their magnificent opus Love, Hate and the Time Machine. Within the month I had purchased the rest of the catalog. I have unfortunately seen a number of artists on what was to become their last tour and all I can say is that I’m glad I got to see his and the rest of the band’s brilliance before his Higher Power asked him to travel. Through The Blue Horizon. RIP Piotr, we hardly knew you but thank you for what you left behind…


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