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 Layne Thomas Staley

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Layne Thomas Staley

  • Birth 22 Aug 1967 Kirkland, King County, Washington, USA
  • Death 5 Apr 2002 Seattle, King County, Washington, USA
  • Burial Cremated, Ashes given to family or friend
  • Memorial ID 6427858

Singer, Songwriter. The lead vocalist of the rock band Alice in Chains. Staley's desolate "snarl-to-scream" vocals, alone or in spooky harmony with bandmate Jerry Cantrell, were a vital part of their unique sound. Most of his lyrics dealt with the pain and alienation of drug addiction, which ultimately rendered him silent and killed him at the age of 34. Layne Thomas Staley was born in Kirkland, Washington. His father, who had a history of drug abuse, abandoned the family early in Layne's life, leaving him with emotional scars that never healed. He later claimed that as a kid he wanted to become a rock star because he thought that might bring his father back. He started playing drums at 12 and at 15 he was singing with Seattle garage bands. In 1987 Staley formed what he originally called Alice N Chains with guitarist-singer Cantrell; drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Starr (replaced in 1993 by Mike Inez) soon followed, and the band was signed by Columbia Records in 1989. Staley wrote the lyrics for the breakthrough hit "Man in the Box" from their debut album, "Facelift" (1990). Although they saw themselves as a metal band, Alice in Chains arrived in time for Seattle's grunge music explosion of the early 1990s and were hailed as standard bearers of the movement, along with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. More mainstream attention came their way with their appearance as a bar band in director Cameron Crowe's film "Singles" (1992). As Staley had once hoped, fame did bring his father back into his life - but only to "bond" through drug use. Between "Facelift" and the recording of the EP "Sap" (1992) he became addicted to heroin, a period he brutally chronicled in AIC's multi-platinum sophomore album "Dirt" (1992): the songs "Angry Chair" and "Hate to Feel", for which he also wrote the music, and in the lyrics to "Rain When I Die", "Sickman", "Junkhead", the title track "Dirt", and "God Smack". Critic Steve Huey wrote of it: "'Dirt' is Alice in Chains' major artistic statement and the closest they ever came to recording a flat-out masterpiece. It's a primal, sickening howl from the depths of Layne Staley's heroin addiction, and one of the most harrowing concept albums ever recorded. Not every song on 'Dirt' is explicitly about heroin, but Jerry Cantrell's solo-written contributions (nearly half the album) effectively maintain the thematic coherence - nearly every song is imbued with the morbidity, self-disgust, and/or resignation of a self-aware yet powerless addict". While this made for compelling music, it backfired on Staley's public image and led some to accuse him of glorifying substance abuse, a charge he vehemently denied. Most who knew him spoke of the singer as "a sweet guy" with a childlike nature, whose favorite pastimes were video games, watching cartoons and wrestling, and playing with his cats. He was saddened by his reputation as a "Smack Poster Boy" (as one journalist called him), not for himself but for the hurt it caused his mother and sister. Yet he was unable or unwilling to stay clean, and before long his demons began to tear Alice in Chains apart. Following their 1993 world tour they would not perform live for three years. Staley spent part of this time fronting a short-lived Seattle supergroup, Mad Season; their sole album, "Above" (1995), had a hit single with "River of Deceit". AIC's last studio discs with Staley, the EP "Jar of Flies" (1994) and "Alice in Chains" (also known as "Tripod", 1995), saw Cantrell assuming most of the lead vocal duties while Staley focused more on lyrics, including those for the singles "I Stay Away" and "Again". In April 1996 he appeared frail but game on Alice In Chains' "MTV Unplugged" performance (released as a live album later that year) and managed a handful of gigs through July; there would be no others as AIC's frontman. Around this time he spoke to Rolling Stone magazine about drugs: "They worked for me for years, and now they're turning against me - and now I'm walking through hell". He had attempted rehab several times, but after the October 1996 death of his ex-fiancee Demri Parrott (from a bacterial infection caused by drug abuse), he seemed to give up. AIC went on indefinite hiatus, broken only in 1998 when Staley resurfaced to provide lyrics and vocals for two new songs, "Get Born Again" and "Died". After that he became a recluse and vanished from the music scene. When he succumbed to an overdose at his Seattle home, Staley had so isolated himself from family and friends that his body was not discovered for two weeks. The coroner determined that he died on the eighth anniversary of Kurt Cobain's suicide, making April 5 a doubly grim day in Seattle music history. Only 200 fans attended a vigil in his memory. The resignation and indifference that greeted Staley's death has since given way to a fuller appreciation of his remarkable if tragically squandered gifts. After a decade in the musical wilderness Alice in Chains began performing again in 2005 with guest singers, and in 2007 chose William DuVall as new lead vocalist.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Jill Fetzer
  • Added: 19 May 2002
  • Find A Grave Memorial 6427858
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Layne Thomas Staley (22 Aug 1967–5 Apr 2002), Find A Grave Memorial no. 6427858, ; Maintained by Find A Grave Cremated, Ashes given to family or friend.