Shannon Hoon’s 50th Birthday: Blind Melon & Guns N’ Roses Members Honor Late Singer

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If Shannon Hoon was still alive, he would be celebrating his 50th birthday today (September 26, 2017). To mark this occasion, how about an excerpt from my first-ever book, A Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other: The Story of Shannon Hoon and Blind Melon? Here are some bits from the chapter entitled Shannon Remembered (for book ordering info, click here).

ROGERS STEVENS [Blind Melon guitarist]: He was a really talented guy who didn’t get to do everything he could have done, because he had a fucking stupid substance abuse problem, which is tragic. In some ways, it fueled what he did, and in other ways, it hindered him from being as great as he could have been. He was a bright guy – he had a really active mind, that he enhanced and distorted at times. One thing led to another – I think a lot of the crazy stuff that he did, even before we met him, gave him things to write about. And for that reason, when he sang those songs, they came off as being totally real. Because they were – he lived it.

BRAD SMITH [Blind Melon bassist]: He already is being remembered. It’s years after his death, and people are remembering him for the right reasons. There’s this shock value of pissing on the audience, going to jail, going to rehab, and stuff like that. But what’s made his memory last this long is his songwriting, voice, and music. That’s why people are hanging around for years. If it was just shock value, they would go on to the next thing. There’s some real depth there – to what he had to say and his voice.

CHRISTOPHER THORN [Blind Melon guitarist]: Being remembered as a great songwriter would be nice, instead of being remembered for like, pissing on an audience. But that’s kind of cool, too [laughs]! It would be nice if at the top of the list was like, “What incredible songs he wrote,” and not “He peed on an audience” or “He got in a fight at the American Music Awards.” The songs were great – his songs are great.

GLEN GRAHAM [Blind Melon drummer]: I’d like Shannon to be remembered as a great frontman, a great singer – somebody who was an individual. He may have sounded like other people, but he certainly wasn’t trying to. And at the same time, I think you can hear that he wasn’t trying to be different just for the sake of being different. He was himself. People read things and get the idea that he was a casualty. Shannon would be dead anyway – even if he hadn’t been in Blind Melon. Probably a lot sooner. Rock music didn’t kill him. I would like him to be remembered.

NEL HOON [Mother of Shannon Hoon]: When I go on those thousands of places on the internet, the way he is remembered is by his beautiful music and how very intelligent he was. Some of the things that he wrote – which I found in some of his personal things that were brought home, things where he started a song. I want him to be remembered by his music.

HEATHER THORN [Wife of Christopher Thorn]: I say to Christopher, “I still cannot believe that Shannon is dead.” It still blows my mind – on a personal level, it’s such a bummer. Like all the things now we go through our lives and say, “Wow, Christopher and I just had a baby – Shannon will never know my kid, his daughter, Brad and Kim’s kids. Rogers just had a baby.” All these events that happen, I still look at Christopher and go, “I cannot believe that Shannon is not here for this – it’s crazy.” It’s just unimaginable to me, still, to this day. It’s like, wow – that’s it. We’re not going to see you again. He was a great singer. He was so passionate. He was a great lyricist. I’d want him to be remembered as one of the nicest, most charismatic guys, who lived 110% every single day of his life…and that’s what burned him out so fast. But he honestly had one of the biggest hearts, and lived life with more gusto than anybody I’ve ever known. He was a killer singer – nobody else sounds like him. He was amazing. He was the real deal. He was fucked up like every singer, but equally, he was talented as well.

GLEN GRAHAM: Shannon’s deal was plumbing the depths of his psyche. I think he would have gotten to be more of a craftsman at that, as time went on.

ROGERS STEVENS: Everything he wrote was true. He didn’t make shit up – it was all about stuff that happened to him.

GLEN GRAHAM: Oh my God – yeah, he knew it. The thing that the Blind Melon camp will always talk about is, “Shannon is one of those guys you think will survive anything.” It’s like, “No, no, no.” I think Shannon knew full well that he was not going to be around forever. He did not know his limits – that’s for sure. But as far as lyrics go, yeah, that whole thing was prescience personified. He was writing about himself – ‘I know I am doomed’ was the theme of ‘Soup.’ That was the ‘Shannon Hoon autobiographical record.’ New Orleans was the perfect metaphor for Shannon Hoon’s personality and mental state. And we should have never gone down there. I really apologize, because I was the one who really wanted to go.

DANNY CLINCH [Photographer]: The best songs for me are ones that can be interpreted a million different ways, through everyone’s life experience. And Shannon had a way of writing these songs that didn’t completely make sense. But when you put them in the context of your own life, they made sense to you. But I bet it didn’t mean the same thing to any one person, because his lyrics were so abstract in a way. Everybody could take something different from it. He should be remembered as a guy who did what he wanted to do. He didn’t really seem to care what anybody thought – he just put his heart out there and said, “There it is – take it or leave it.”

GILBY CLARKE [Guns N’ Roses guitarist, toured w/ Blind Melon in ’93]: One thing I always remembered about Shannon was he was one of those people that had fun in life. He was just one of those ‘happy people.’ I never saw him depressed. I always saw him happy – maybe ‘cause it was always around shows, traveling, or just living in the moment. He really did live it to the fullest. Every moment was precious, and he just lived it – he went as far and fast as he could.

DUFF McKAGAN [Guns N’ Roses bassist, toured w/ Blind Melon in ‘93]: The guy was a really special guy – he was so full of life. A really funny dude. He was a guy I liked hanging out with. He didn’t fit that typical ‘singer mold.’ The typical singer mold in a big band, they’re precious, y’know? And he wasn’t that at all.

CRAIG ROSS [Lenny Kravitz Band guitarist, toured w/ Blind Melon in ‘93]: It seemed like he was going to become a friend, because him and his girl connected with me and my wife. He was going to have a kid, get stable, and I’ve always been that way myself. He was a really sweet guy. He was emotional, and he was kind. To me, he seemed like a normal, goodhearted guy who’s involved in this business, which can be a little crazy and can allow you to be as crazy as you can get. But I considered him a friend, and he seemed normal to me. He was a really cool guy – a bit extreme, but I’ve got friends like that.

BRAD SMITH: It just gets sadder, because Shannon isn’t here to witness this kinda thing. He’s not here to witness his daughter growing up – who’s the spitting image of him. It’s really sad. At the time, you get over that little hump where you’re grieving, and you’re like “Oh man, I really miss Shannon.” You go through bouts of hating him for leaving you, like “What the fuck were you thinking, you asshole?” But it just gets sadder. In the back of your mind, all the time – “God, Shannon really fucked up.” He didn’t fuck up for the band, he fucked up for him.

NEL HOON: After Shannon passed, I was looking through a lot of pictures, and I found a picture of the band – of all of the guys together. It was when they had gotten signed. And this was in Shannon’s handwriting – Shannon said that they were all his brothers. He praised them so much. They probably don’t even know about this – he wrote in the back of it. That was just sad, because it brought back the softhearted Shannon that he really was. It may have been about a year after he was gone – I just thought, “Oh, I’m just going to open up this frame.” Something told me to. And when I read that – I wonder if the band knew how much he did care for them.

For book ordering info, click here.

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Bio: After having his articles posted from other outlets on Alternative Nation (and before that, Grunge Report) for years - heck, he was even interviewed by GR back in 2009! - Greg Prato finally began contributing articles to the site in 2014. He has written for various sites/mags over the years (Rolling Stone, All Music Guide, etc.), and is the author of quite a few books. And as evidenced by such titles as Grunge is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music, A Devil on One Shoulder and an Angel on the Other: The Story of Shannon Hoon and Blind Melon, and Too High to Die: Meet the Meat Puppets, he also has a deep fondness for alternative rock n' roll music. You can check out info on all of Greg's books here, see what he's up to on his Twitter page here.
  • Michael Pal

    Shannon Hoon was such a BEAUTIFUL SOUL with a FREE SPIRIT. How could anyone not LOVE Shannon . He gave us his 💓 Heart and Soul thru his music. Sure wish u we’re here Shannon on our journey thru Life!! We miss u So Much and will ALWAYS CELEBRATE your AMAZING MUSIC!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! 🎂🎂🎂🎆🎆🎆💛💛💛

  • Trovoid

    I watched their Woodstock concert yesterday without even realizing it was his birthday. What a coincidence and what a great show.

  • dakotablue

    Lots of similarities with Layne, good and bad, who was a good pal of Shannon’s (and also would have been 50 this year).

  • Jelmer Mäkel

    Thank you Greg Prato for this great book, it’s a must read if you do or don’t like Blind Melon.