One of the most well-known rock singers to have emerged in the 20th century, Layne Staley was the lead singer and co-songwriter for the rock band ‘Alice in Chains’. Known for his distinctive vocal style, Staley became an international rock star during the ‘grunge rock movement’, a subgenre of alternative rock music. He changed the face of rock music and is widely regarded as one of the best male rock vocalists. Introduced to the field of music at a very young age, he started playing the drum at the age of 12 and went on to play for many bands during his teenage years. Despite the growing popularity of his band, ‘Alice in Chains’, Staley slowly stepped out of the spotlight and remained averse to the media glare. Unfortunately, his personal life was not as peaceful as he became involved in drug abuse and suffered from addiction problems all his life. His drug problems eventually lead to his tragic death at a young age of 34.
Childhood & Early Life
Layne Staley was born in Kirkland, Washington to Phil Staley and Nancy Staley. His parents’ separate when he was just seven and he had to grow up with his mother and stepfather, Jim Elmer.
He was raised with Catholic values and attended the Meadowdale High School, located in Lynnwood, Washington, and took up his stepfather’s surname.
He had a keen interest in music from his childhood and started playing drums for several bands during his teenage years and aspired to be a singer in future.
In 1984, he became a part of the students metal-band called ‘Sleze’, after which he played across Seattle as a member of ‘Alice N’ Chains’, a band formed by the former members of ‘Sleze’. The name of the band was eventually changed to ‘Alice in Chains’.
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On August 21, 1990, the band released their first album ‘Facelift’. The album featured the hit single. ‘Man in the Box, which was written and composed by him.
Released in 1992, their second studio album ‘Dirt’ was one of the most successful and was a top hit. The featured singles include ‘Would?’, ‘Rooster’, ‘Angry Chair’, ‘Them Bones’, and ‘Down in a Hole’.
In 1994, ‘Alice in Chains’ came out with their album ‘Jar of Flies’, which received immense positive critical reviews and became one of their most successful albums.
In 1995, after a year of struggle with his heroin addiction, the band ‘Alice in Chains’ came together for their title album ‘Alice in Chains’. The album was based on the themes of ‘depression and drug use’ - this was his last album with this band.
In 1996, he was part of the ‘Alice in Chains’ MTV Unplugged performance and that year he also performed in Kansas City, Missouri, which was one of the last performances in his musical career.
In 1998, he helped record two ‘Alice in Chains’ tracks, ‘Get Born Again’ and ‘Died’. These tracks were released the following year on the Music Bank box, a box set compilation album put together with the help of Columbia Records.
The album ‘Dirt’ peaked at the number six position on the Billboard 200 and is four time platinum certified album. It was one of the bestselling albums of 1992 that sold over 5 million copies across the globe.
Released in 1994, ‘Jar of Flies’ peaked at the number one position on the Billboard 200 and received a triple platinum certification. The album sold 4 million copies across the globe and in 2011, the album ranked at number 4 on ‘Guitar World’ magazine's list of ‘top ten guitar albums of 1994’.
Awards & Achievements
In 2006, he was featured on Hit Parader magazine, in which he was ranked number 27 on their list of ‘Heavy Metal's All-Time Top 100 Vocalists’.
Personal Life & Legacy
By 1992, he started using drugs and due to his addiction, the band ‘Alice in Chains’ couldn’t go on tours to promote their album ‘Dirt’.
In 1994, his drug addiction problem reached its zenith and he went to a rehabilitation centre.
In 1996, his ex-girlfriend and ex-fianc�e Demri Lara Parrott lost her life due to accidental overdose of drugs.
From 1999 onwards, he withdrew himself socially and spent more and more time alone in his Seattle condo. He isolated himself and little is known as to what he did during this time.
On April 19, 2002, at the age of 34, his dead body was found at his University District apartment in Seattle. It is believed he died on April 5, 2002. His autopsy report stated that he had died due to an overdose of heroin and cocaine.
In 2002, his mother Nancy McCallum along with substance abuse and alcohol abuse counsellor, Jamie Richards, set up the ‘Layne Staley Fund’, a non-profit organisation that worked with the objective of helping drug addiction victims and providing them medical treatment.
This musician’s dead body was discovered in his apartment two weeks after his death. He was surrounded by drug paraphernalia and his body was so decomposed that it was almost unidentifiable.