LAYNE STALEY’S DEATH, 10 YEARS LATER

Published On April 5, 2012 | By Brett Buchanan | Alice In Chains, Featured

While GrungeReport.net is mostly spending today remembering Layne’s good times, if anything good can come from his passing it would be that people learn from Layne’s mistakes.  In this article we remember Layne Staley’s untimely death 10 years ago, may it be a reminder to all readers to NEVER DO DRUGS!  Rest in peace Layne.

LAYNE STALEY: 10 YEARS ON
WRITTEN BY IMOGEN REED

April 5th 2012, undoubtedly a poignant day for Alice in Chains fans, for it signifies the tenth anniversary of the death of front man Layne Staley. Fans will hardly need reminding that Staley was a victim of substance abuse and was found dead in his Seattle home at the age of 34 after taking a lethal combination of cocaine and heroin. Shockingly, he had been dead for almost two weeks before he was discovered. All of this has been well documented over the years.

However, to mark this upcoming anniversary and pay tribute to an influential musician, GrungeReport would like to look back at Staley’s troubled life, career and how the band, fans and his family have progressed in the years following his untimely death.

A Metaphorical Death

Some critics have suggested that Staley ‘died’ metaphorically many years before his actual death. Alice In Chains were accused of ‘letting time pass them by’ while other grunge bands flourished and changed the musical world. In an article written shortly after his death, Kathleen Wilson said that Staley’s voice ‘sounded like the despair of someone who had already given up’. This, combined with many of his own lyrics focusing on his personal problems with drugs and depression, made for some dark and sinister music, which Wilson suggested expressed no hopefulness or desire to be helped.

Despite this however, there can be no doubting the initial success of Staley and Alice in Chains with 1992 album Dirt being certified quadruple platinum, 1994 EP Jar of Flies debuting at number one and 1995 self-titled album Alice in Chains topping the U.S charts. Staley wrote almost all of his own lyrical content on this album and despite his personal issues, his creative contribution cannot be ignored or disregarded in terms of the album’s subsequent success.

Reclusive Ways

But even during periods of accomplishment, Staley battled with his addiction causing tour cancellations and tensions within the band. By 1999 he had stepped out of the spotlight altogether and become reclusive, preferring to isolate himself in his Seattle condo and accepting help from no-one. It is rumored that by this stage his physical appearance had deteriorated; he had lost several teeth and weighed only 80lbs. In an interview with VH1’s Celebrity Rehab, the late Mike Starr spoke openly about how he had tried to call an ambulance for his ex-band mate the day before he died. Staley (according to Starr) refused his help and the two former band mates argued, leading to Starr storming out. Starr believed that he was the last person to see him alive and felt a clear sense of guilt, even apologizing to Staley’s mother, Nancy McCallum, for not doing more to save his friends life. Ironically, Starr himself also battled with drug addiction and died from an overdose in March 2011.

End of Alice and the Layne Staley Fund

Following the death of Staley, Alice in Chains officially disbanded and refused to play together for a number of years out of respect for their former front man. They have since reunited for charity concerts and have received a positive response from fans. This led to the band officially reuniting in 2006 in order to keep paying tribute to Staley, his work and the fans who have supported them all.

Following the death of her son, Nancy McCallum set up the Layne Staley Fund: a charity which raised funds for drug and alcohol abuse and intervention and treatment.. The main purpose of the charity was to help substance abusers overcome their addictions and aid in their recovery. Yearly fundraising concerts were held, usually around Staley’s birthday, in order to promote the charity and raise money to help with their aims, but sadly the organization dissolved in 2010.

Now, ten years on it is hard to imagine what sort of an artist Staley would have been in todays musical world had he not been afflicted with drug addiction. With salon.com comparing Adele to Kurt Cobain in terms of her authenticity, rawness and realness, perhaps similarly Amy Winehouse’s dark, dirty and troubled lyrics could be a modern day comparison against Staley. Sadly, too many of these icons seem destined for early self destruction and so their talent is lost too soon. But on April 5th, Alice in Chains fans can once more take time to remember a true talent that was sadly overshadowed by such a powerful and damaging addiction.

R.I.P Layne Staley.

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About The Author

Bio: Brett hosted the BWR podcast from 2004 to 2009, and then opened GrungeReport.net in May 2009. The site changed its name to AlternativeNation.net in June 2013. Brett also owns Concertfy.com. Reach out to Brett at; brett (at) alternativenation.net
  • Cathy

    You know, I’ve always had trouble believe that bit about him weighing only 80 lbs in 1999. Is it possible to be that weight and still live for very long? Granted Layne has always been slim but he was also pretty tall at 6’1. Wouldn’t his body have given out on him being that skinny?
    Christian Bale’s characters in the movies The Machinist and The Fighter were shockingly thin. The 6’0″ actor dropped to 121 lbs. and he looked frighteningly skinny and sick. It was disturbing to even look at him, and he was a full 40 lbs heavier than what was rumored about Layne. The picture in the link shows Christian Bale at 121 lbs.
    http://docuniverse.blogspot.com/2011/11/review-machinist-2004.html

  • Kris

    Layne will never, ever be forgotten! He was truly one of the most talented vocalists ever. R.I.P. forever, Layne – we love and miss you!

  • Mike struthers

    10 years have passed since lead singer of alice in chains Layne Staley died. Visit his memorial @ http://www.respectance.com/Layne_Staley

  • Mom in the Box

    RIP Layne.

  • Electric Fun

    RIP Layne

  • Robert

    Layne will always be remembered

  • dakotablue

    I have a few problems with this story. Number one, referencing Kathleen Wilson who wrote a horribly disrespectful article about Layne shortly after he died–how dare she make an appearance here? Also I don’t think Mike Starr died from an OD–I never saw anything that said that. Complications from many many years of addiction, yes probably, but he only had a Xanax and a beer right before he died. I also would not say Layne was “overshadowed” by his addiction. Yes, it took him from us, but not before his honesty about drugs had helped many, many others, and still helps them today.
    RIP Layne, one of a kind, our beautiful and sad brother. We miss you.

  • Heather

    Rest in Peace Layne. You touched my life in more ways than anyone ever has. I think of you and miss you every single day.

  • ILoveLayne

    Dakota–well said.
    Cathy–I often wonder about the mention of him only weighting 80 lbs…it’s hard to believe, but that doesn’t mean he was 80 lbs for an extended period of time, you know? Because you’re right–I don’t think he’d be able to survive at the weight for long. With him being unable to keep food down/in (as it’s been said), I think him losing weight was just part of that descent to his death/overdose. Know what I mean? It’s not like he weighed 80 lbs for months or even years. But still–80 lbs and being 6’1″ is just so hard to imagine. My little ten-year-old son is 74 lbs and he is a lean, wiry little thing and barely 5′ tall. I can’t picture Layne at 80 lbs. It breaks my heart.

    So heartbreaking to even think about.

  • Evie

    Layne’s voice is so hauntingly beautiful, I find myself less afraid of death knowing that were all going to the same place, and people like Layne are already there.

  • Michael

    Yeah….Kathleen Wilson can eat a dick….I actually have that article still. Nothing had been written even days after Layne died and when I actually found something it was this ignorant piece. Layne you are missed, RIP.