Layne Staley

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Layne Staley

Layne Staley, (August 22, 1967April 5, 2002), born in Kirkland, Washington, was the lead singer of the Seattle-based grunge/metal band Alice in Chains and the grunge supergroup Mad Season.

Staley played drums in several glam bands in his early teens, but wished to be a singer. He met up with Jerry Cantrell in 1987, and formed Alice in Chains with him. Originally a glam band, Alice in Chains were influenced by metal, and the grunge bands in the Seattle scene.

Like several other musicians in the Seattle grunge scene, Staley experimented with heroin. By the 1990s, Staley was battling with heroin addiction. The darker side of addiction had its influence on Staley's lyrics, and the Alice in Chains album Dirt showed this preoccupation in songs like "Sickman" and "Dirt." Cantrell also contributed lyrics, which focused mainly on the thoughts of death. "Would?" in particular addresses the death of Andrew Wood, singer of Mother Love Bone, who had died of a heroin overdose.

Alice in Chains did not tour in support of their album Jar of Flies, and rumors of Staley's addiction began spreading. Alice in Chains went into hiatus, regrouping to record a self-titled album which was released in 1995. To accompany the album, the band released a home video, The Nona Tapes, in which they poke fun at the rumours of Staley's addiction--several sources had announced his death during the hiatus--but the band lapsed again, failing to complete tours planned in support of the album. After the death of his girlfriend in 1996, Staley became more and more reclusive. Alice in Chains' last performance was for the MTV Unplugged album in which Staley gave an excellent performance despite being obviously in very poor health.

On April 19, 2002, Staley was found dead in his home two weeks after overdosing on heroin and cocaine. In a morbid coincidence, Staley died on the eighth anniversary of Kurt Cobain's suicide. Friend and former bandmate Jerry Cantrell, who had tried to stay in touch with Staley and maintain their friendship, released the solo album Degradation Trip in June 2002 and dedicated the album to Staley's memory.

Aaron Lewis, lead singer of nu-metal band Staind, penned a tribute to Staley titled "Layne" for Staind's 2003 album 14 Shades of Grey.

Eddie Vedder, lead of singer of the seminal 'alternative' group Pearl Jam, also recorded a song eulogizing Layne Staley. Entitled '4/20/02' (the day Staley died), the song has only Vedder singing and playing the guitar in a ukelele-inspired tuning. It can be found as a hidden track on Pearl Jam's 2004 B-sides album 'Lost Dogs'.

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