Today, we remember the lives of Layne Staley and Kurt Cobain on a day that has been nicknamed “The Day Seattle Died.” Here is a biography of the one of the most prominent and influential vocalists or lyricists to walk the earth and shape rock and roll, Layne Staley of Alice in Chains.
Layne Staley was born August 22, 1967 in Kirkland, Washington to Phil Staley and Nancy McCallum. His parents struggles and eventful split would have great influence on Staley and his addictions, citing that his father’s addictions we’re partially responsible for his own.
Staley created the band Sleze in 1985 which would later become Alice N’ Chainz, a speed-metal glam band. Layne would later recruit Jerry Cantrell to play in a funk band named “Diamond Lie” following the disbanding of Alice N’ Chainz. Diamond Lie also featured drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Starr. The band would breakup in 1987 then later rename themselves [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Alice in Chains[/lastfm].
Alice in Chains’ debut album, Facelift dropped on August 21, 1990. It’s second single, “Man in the Box”, was an instant hit in which Staley had written all of the lyrics. The song would later be nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance and earn the album a nomination for an American Music Award for Favorite New Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Artist. It’s popularity and influence are inarguable, going Gold by 1990 and later earning Triple Platinum status for selling three million copies in the United States.
1992 saw the release of Dirt, their most successful album. It would peak at #6 on the Billboard charts and feature “Rooster”, “Down In A Hole”, ”Angry Chair”, “Them Bones”, and more. It was certified Quadruple Plantinum by RIAA with over four million copies sold, the most out of any Alice in Chains album. The success of album did not transfer into a successful tour as Staley struggled with drugs and Mike Starr departed for personal reasons. Mike Inez would fill the void left by Starr. Reports of Staley’s heroin addiction spread and fueled rumors of various health issues and disfigurements in the following years.
Alice in Chains would release their self-title album in 1995. The album was packed with hits like “Grind”, “Over Now”, ”Again”, and “Heaven Beside You” and written mainly by Staley. However, the album would not be supported by a tour. One of Staley’s last performances would come for the recording of the MTV Unplugged Sessions in 1996, with his last performance on July 5, 1996 in Kansas City while on tour with KISS. Layne’s life would continue it’s downward spirwl following the death of his ex-finacee, Demri Lara Parrott, to drug use complications. Rolling Stone would quote Layne saying, ”Drugs worked for me for years, and now they’re turning against me, now I’m walking through hell.”
Layne would make several returns to the spotlight and record with Alice In Chains. In 1998, Staley and Alice In Chains would record “Get Born Again” and “Died” for the Music Bank Box Set (released in 1999). Later on that year, members of Rage Against the Machine, Porno For Pyros, and Jane’s Addiction would team up to form “Class of ’99.” The supergroup would record parts one and two of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall for Robert Rodriguez’s horror/sci-fi film, the Faculty.
From 1999-2002, Layne would become a recluse to his Seattle condo. Friends, family, and Alice In Chains members had great difficulty dealing with Layne’s seclusive nature. In an interview with MTV News, he would say, Don’t try to contact any AIC members. They are not my friends.”
In the same interview with MTV News, Staley admitted, “I know I’m near death, I did crack and heroin for years. I never wanted to end my life this way.” However, his addictions got the best of him and body was discovered on April 20, 2002 surrounded by drug paraphernalia, with a needle in his arm. The autopsy would reveal that he died of a “speedball”, a combination of heroin and cocaine. The coroner established his death occurred on April 5.
Many groups who were influenced by Staley would release tribute songs to pay homage to him including [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Staind[/lastfm]‘s “Layne”, [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Cold[/lastfm]‘s “the Day Seattle Died”, and [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Eddie Vedder’s [/lastfm]“4/20/02″, among others. Today we remember Layne Staley, may we all learn from him and recognize his contributions to rock and roll and our own lives.