The suicide deaths of Chester Bennington, Kurt Cobain, Chris Cornell, and Michael Hutchence were discussed in the November, 2018 issue of The Sober World. In an article titled “The Temple of the Nine” the lives of these grunge pioneers were examined. The remaining five musicians offer another cautionary tale, yet to be heeded. Included in this prolific group are the following:
Shannon Hoon (1967-1995). Richard Shannon Hoon was the lead singer of the group Blind Melon, who copied the sounds of classic 70’s rock as opposed to grunge and industrial rock. The band hit the charts in 1993 with their Grateful Dead-influenced single “No Rain” from their self-titled album. That album went multi-platinum and sold over two million copies. “No Rain” received heavy airplay on MTV and became the band’s highest charting song, reaching 20 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #1 on both the Album Rock Tracks and Modern Rock Tracks.
Despite the band’s success, Hoon had a long, ragged history of trouble with law enforcement. In 1993, he was charged with nudity and indecent exposure after removing his clothes and urinating on-stage during a concert in Vancouver. Hoon was arrested for allegedly assaulting a guard during the taping of the American Music Awards in 1994. Over the course of a support tour through 1992 and 1993, Blind Melon were forced to take breaks from their schedule to accommodate Hoon, who entered a detox program, and occasionally jail, on charges ranging from indecent exposure, assault and drunk and disorderly conduct. After completing that album, the band forced Hoon to check himself into another rehabilitation program.
Hoon was arrested during the recording of their second album, Soup. He was arrested for being drunken and disorderly. The album is much darker than the band’s debut album. “2 X 4” is about Hoon’s experience at a drug detox, while the lyrics to the acoustic ballad “Walk” cryptically reference his addiction to speed and attempts to recovery.
When Soup was released in the summer of 1995, a support tour for the album began under the condition that a drug counselor accompany Hoon, who almost immediately fell back into a pattern of drug abuse. Hoon’s performances were spiraling downward and he appeared obviously impaired on stage several times.
He was found unresponsive in the band’s tour bus in a New Orleans’ parking lot. EMTs pronounced Hoon dead on the scene. He died of a cocaine-induced heart attack. He was 28. In 1996, the surviving members of Blind Melon compiled and released an album, ‘Nico,’ in Hoon’s honor and for the benefit of his daughter.
Bradley Nowell (1968-1996). As Sublime’s lead singer and guitarist, Nowell turned punk, reggae, and hip-hop into a blended musical magic.
Nowell had numerous bouts with rehab centers since 1992, and died of a heroin overdose on May 25, 1996, after shooting up heroin that was more potent than the brown Mexican tar he was used to. His death came just prior to the release of the band’s major label release, and seven days after his wedding to Troy den Denkker, who’d given birth to their son, Jakob, 11 months earlier.
The band’s hits included “What I Got,” “Santeria” and “Wrong Way,” combining humor with social satire. According to Rolling Stone writer Mark Kemp:
The story of Sublime is full of sad, strange twists, but this is perhaps the strangest: Since frontman Brad Nowell overdosed before his band became a phenomenon, before he had a chance to become a bona fide rock star, his death has been oddly free of the mythic impact of so many rock star flameouts…
By April 1997, a little less than a year after Nowell’s OD, Sublime had entered Billboard ‘s Top 20, and the album’s first single, the breezily grooving, mostly acoustic hip-hop toaster “What I Got,” went to No. 1 on the Modern Rock chart. And that was only the beginning. Throughout 1997, Sublime produced hit after hit, and the album has sold more than 2 million copies (that year).
Many of Nowell’s fans didn’t know of his passing, and, at the time, the heroin death of the Smashing Pumpkins‘ touring keyboard player, Jonathon Melvoin, received more media attention.
Layne Thomas Staley: (1968-2002). Staley was the lead singer and co-songwriter of the grunge group Alice in Chains that he founded with guitarist Jerry Cantrell. The band became known for Staley’s distinct vocal style, as well as for the harmonized vocals between him and Jerry Cantrell. He wrote about his addiction in songs such as “Junkhead,” “Angry Chair,” “Nutshell” and “Frogs.” He later played in the super groups Mad Season and Class of ’99. Staley stepped away from the public spotlight, became reclusive, and never performed after the late 1990s. Staley’s early Alice in Chains collaborator, Tim Branom recollected:
In the end, almost no one could contact Layne. He wouldn’t answer the door or take calls. He lived in a condo right smack in front of everyone, in the University District. He weighed 80-some pounds and his health was deteriorating. There were reports that he would go to Toys R Us to buy games and return home, but always by himself.
Maybe fame didn’t give him happiness or maybe something else was troubling him. I never heard Layne speak a bad word about anyone. If there’s anything we can learn, be kind to those that deserve it. Because otherwise, they may feel helpless and slowly die. Like a flower needs water, people need love.
Unable to conquer his addiction and depression, he died alone, of a heroin-cocaine overdose. He was 34.
Scott Weiland (1967-2015). Weiland, former lead singer for the Stone Temple Pilots, dominated the alternative rock charts in the mid-to-late ‘90s with songs like “Plush,” “Interstate Love Song” and “Vasoline.” After Weiland left the group, Chester Bennington headed the STPs from 2013 to 2015. Weiland also released five solo albums and fronted the group Velvet Revolver. Billboard reporter Danielle Bacher looked at Weiland’s final months, writing:
The ‘90s-rock icon’s history of heroin addiction was welldocumented, but the multiplatinum-selling artist hadn’t used the opioid in 13 years. What was less known were the last 10 months of Weiland’s life, a series of turbulent episodes that included a close friend’s death, the cancer diagnoses of his mother and father, severe financial troubles, estrangement from his children, self-medication and mental illness.
Weiland died of an accidental drug overdose on his tour bus. A combination of cocaine, alcohol, and methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) were found in his system. MDA is a psychostimulant and that causes euphoria and hallucinations. Similar to MDMA, MDA enhances mood and empathy, emotions that the singer desperately craved.
Andrew Wood: (1966-1990). As the 17-year-old front man for Malfunkshun, Wood pioneered the Seattle pre-grunge scene with experimental punk and post-1970’s glam rock. His silver suits, capes, painted face and outrageous platform shoes and motorcycle boots projected a superstar status in the making. Wood injected spontaneous stage antics into the musical mix. He later founded Mother Love Bone that evolved into the commercially-successful Pearl Jam.
Mother Love Bone was quickly discovered by Polygram Records, who released their EP Shine in 1989. All indicators were that the band, the first Seattle group of their generation to net a major record deal, was poised for national success. Wood had quit doing heroin, and had checked himself into rehab three months before the release of Mother Love Bone’s debut album Apple. Around this time, Wood checked himself once again, into a rehab. After discharge, he was interviewed by RIP magazine, and spoke about his ongoing battle with addiction:
It’s a total struggle. When you first get out, you’re on this pink cloud, and it’s pretty easy. After a while, things start getting more real, and you have to just stay straight a second at a time.
On March 16, 1990 Wood was found in bed, unconscious, by his fiancée. Wood was pronounced dead three days later; the medical report determined that he died from a heroin overdose coupled with a cerebral hemorrhage. Wood was only 24-years-old.
Pearl Jam’s Temple of the Dog (1991) was a tribute album dedicated to the memory of Andrew Wood and introduced itself as the world’s first grunge super group.
The documentary Malfunkshun –The Andrew Wood Story, directed by
independent filmmaker Scot Barbour, captured the Best Documentary
award at the 2005 FAIF International Film Festival in Hollywood. The
posthumous tribute came 15 years after Wood’s fatal overdose.
The five aforementioned musicians were all members of the Generation X (1965 – 1978) demographic group. The average age of death was 32.4, with Wood being the youngest, 24, and Weiland the oldest, 48.
Although The Temple of the Nine represented an incredible musical accomplishment and aptitude, it also reflected a serious national health crisis. Every day, more than 130 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids. These are regular people, employed and unemployed, rich and poor, common folk and rock stars. The drug epidemic affects us all and the sadness continues.
Maxim W. Furek has a rich background that includes aspects of psychology, addictions, mental health, and music journalism. His book The Death Proclamation of Generation X: A Self-Fulfilling Prophesy of Goth, Grunge and Heroin explores the dark marriage between grunge music and the beginning of the opioid crisis.
Learn more at shepptonmyth.com