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.
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.