So, today would have been late Alice in Chains singer Layne Staley’s 52nd birthday. To commemorate, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has declared August 22nd, 2019, Layne Staley Day.
It’s about time.
As a Gen Xer who came of age during the Seattle “grunge” movement of the late 80s/early 90s, Staley’s lack of mass media attention has always baffled me. While journalists focus primarily on the musical and cultural influence of Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, and Chris Cornell (and rightfully so,) Staley often get ignored. Yet, it was Layne’s haunting, soulful voice that moved me the most during those formative years.
Layne Staley is one the greatest rock vocalist of all time
As stated in the proclamation (below,) “Layne’s voice was legendary, and other musicians are heavily influenced by his instantly recognizable vocal style.” Personally, I think Layne Staley is one the greatest rock vocalist of all time. Beyond his booming vocals, the songs he wrote were emotionally gripping and painfully transparent.
In concert, there was nothing like him. Channeling Jim Morrison, you couldn’t believe someone of his stature wailed so fucking hard.
Tragically, Layne passed away after a long battle with substance abuse in 2002. Shortly thereafter, I remember pressing Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell — promoting a new solo album at the time — about Staley’s death on the radio. Frustrated and sad as a fan, I implied that I wish Cantrell could have “done more.” Not happy with my line of questioning, the interview didn’t last much longer. Looking back, it showed how little I knew about addiction at the time.
The below proclamation mentions the Layne Staley Memorial Fund, committed to helping people struggling with drug abuse. You’re able to contribute with a donation to further the mission of hope, education, support and treatment.
“Drugs are not the way to the light. They won’t lead to a fairy-tale life, they lead to suffering.” Layne Staley, 1995