Grunge is dead, literally. The body of Layne Staley was found in his Seattle home Friday. His death was not a shock to fans, but rather an anticipated, inevitable horror. The agonized, brooding vocalist/lyricist for Alice in Chains and Mad Season had long been enduring the self-destructing and unrelenting clutch of drug addiction.
Alice in Chains formed in 1987, originally classified as heavy metal. The band later joined the genre of grunge when “Would?” appeared on the trendy Singles Soundtrack in 1992 alongside tracks by fellow flannel-clad Seattle rockers Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.
With his heroin addiction as the principal premise of his lyrics, Staley’s drug addiction was palpable. As he sang in “Junkhead” (Dirt, 1992), “You can’t understand a user’s mind, but try, with your books and degrees. If you let yourself go and open your mind, I’ll bet you’d be doing like me and it ain’t so bad.” Sadly, Staley lived the rock star legendary existence of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll; beginning as an experimental user, being impressed by the expansion of mind, writing a few amazing lyrics and ultimately turning into an emblematic junkie.
While his mistakes may have been great, his impression on the world and the music industry was greater. The Alice in Chains fan base was saddened as the news was broadcasted via radio, television and the internet on Saturday.
A wonderful musician, Staley wrote from the depths of his soul and transcribed the ominous hell that he faced inside. His voice was beautifully poignant and unforgettable to whose hearts he touched. Layne Staley has hopefully found his peace, at last.
For a generation that has already witnessed the heartrending suicide of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain (1994) and the fortuitous cocaine overdose of Blind Melon’s Shannon Hoon (1995), Staley’s death serves as just another reminder that the rock scene of the early ’90s has indeed ended.