Layne Staley: Remembering his Legacy 15 Years Later

Vinyl Bay 777 takes a look back at the influence of the former Alice in Chains frontman on the anniversary of his death

Layne Staley playing with Alice in Chains at the Channel in Boston, MA on November 27, 1992. Photo by Rex Aran Emrick. Found on Wikipedia Commons.

It has been 15 years since the death of Alice in Chains frontman Layne Staley. The singer passed away on this date in 2002 of a drug overdose, though his body wasn’t found until two weeks later.

Staley and Alice in Chains came out of the same Seattle grunge scene that birthed bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. The band became known for their metal-infused sound, defined by Staley’s inimitable voice. According to The Atlantic’s David De Sola, he had the “ability to project power and vulnerability” when he sang. Early songs from the band have an eerie quality to them, his deep, echo-y vocals a blaring call through heavy guitars.

Unfortunately, Staley’s drug addiction began to overshadow his ability to make exciting new music. Though he didn’t quit Alice in Chains, he only worked with them occasionally after 1996.The singer became increasingly insular, barely leaving his Seattle condo for nearly five years. He didn’t answer his door or his phone. The only reason anyone found his lifeless body at all was his lack of spending in the two weeks following his death.

In the decade-and-a-half since his passing, Staley’s life and tragedy has become a pillar for others looking to kick their drug habits. The Layne Staley Memorial Fund was started by the singer’s mother in an effort to help those suffering get support and education in hopes of leading people to recovery. A tribute show has been announced for August 19 at Seattle’s Moore Theater to benefit the charity.

Staley’s work with Alice in Chains remains influential to this day. Godsmack count the band as a massive influence, attempting to follow in their footsteps sonically, as well as deriving their name from one of the band’s songs. Bands in the metal and grunge scenes wrote songs paying tribute to Staley, including Pearl Jam, Staind and Metallica. The reformed Alice in Chains even devotes a portion of their live shows to their former singer. Staley was also named by Hit Parader magazine as their 27th best vocalist in metal.

It’s hard to believe that it has been 15 years since the rock world lost one of its most unique and talented individuals, Layne Staley. To date, his vocal prowess has not been matched by anyone in the music industry and probably never will. His work continues to be an influence on rock and metal music, and will be for years to come.

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