Today would be Layne Staley’s 49th birthday… On this sad occasion let me quote Jerry Cantrell talking about the way he was coping with the death of his bandmate.
Alice In Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell says he still has a hard time listening to the Black Gives Way To Blue, the group’s 2009 tribute to their original frontman Layne Staley.
After struggling with severe drug addiction, Staley died in his Seattle apartment in April 2002 from a mixture of heroin and cocaine while the band were on hiatus.
The remaining members regrouped in 2005 for a three-year run of reunion shows that featured a variety of singers, including former Madfly and Comes With The Fall vocalist William DuVall, who joined Alice In Chains in the studio for their 2009 comeback album Black Gives Way To Blue.
The project’s title track saw a guest appearance by Elton John on piano as the band offered a public goodbye to their fallen bandmate.
Cantrell exclusively tells the latest edition of Metal Hammer: “That song really set it in stone, because we had to properly address Layne’s death and say goodbye to our friend. We had done it privately, but if we were going to do this, we had to do it publicly. It’s a beautiful song and it’s still really tough for me to listen to.”
The song, which features Elton John on piano, doesn’t specifically mention Staley, but it’s not hard to make the connection to him, particularly with the last verse. “Curtains drawn, now it’s done / Silencing all tomorrows / Forcing a goodbye.”
Staley died of a fatal mixture of heroin and cocaine on April 5, 2002. His body was discovered two weeks later in his Seattle apartment that was littered with drugs and drug paraphernalia. In his hand was a syringe with another dose of heroin. Although Alice in Chains had not broken up, they had been mostly inactive since they opened up for Kiss in July 1996, with a couple of songs recorded in 1998 as Staley’s last sessions with the band.
At the time of his death, Staley weighed only 86 pounds. Coincidentally, it was eight years to the day that the biggest star of the Seattle alternative scene of the early ’90s, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, died of a self-inflicted shotgun blast.