Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley were two great musicians who ironically died on the same day, April 5, 8 years apart. Kurt committed suicide in 1994, and Layne Staley slowly died of a drug overdose in 2002. Musically, they were very different, though they both came from the grunge, Seattle scene. Kurt was a huge fan of bands like REM, The Pixies, The Melvins and always had more of a punk edge. Layne's vocals were very haunting and owed more to blues and metal. Both men had severe drug issues, and it's a shame that the most emotional, talented people have these issues. I remember when I first heard about Kurt Cobain's death. I was in middle school and I do remember many of my fellow classmates feeling depressed. Many didn't even show up to school. We never had a music related death affect us this much. Kurt was the so-called "voice of a generation" of disaffected youths. It was a heavy burden to bear and it's one of many things which led to his suicide. What I liked about Kurt and Nirvana particularly is the fact that they brought this kind of music into people's bedrooms who didn't grow up in the alternative music scene. Nirvana helped make rock mainstream in the 90s. This opened the doors to me to get into other bands such as The Replacements, The Pixies, Husker Du, Sonic Youth and many other bands that Kurt constantly talked about. He was a huge fan of music and he always wanted to support the bands he was a fan of.
Layne Staley's death did not affect me as much, but he was a very tortured soul. There was no other band like Alice in Chains. Haunting is a word I would use to describe them. The vocals of Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell were so good. Albums like Dirt talked about addiction and how terrible it is. When I heard about Layne's death, I believed I was in New York at the time. I listened to tons of Alice in Chains that day, and the Mad Season album, which I believed was his masterpiece. While Kurt's death was a shock to all, Layne's death was slow and tragic. He basically wasted away until he was no more in 2002. Police reports indicate he was around 86 pounds when they found his body. Strangely enough, Alice in Chains decided to carry on years later with a new singer and new album in 2009.
MTV's Unplugged really showcased both bands in a different setting. These are the top 2 performances in my opinion. Just take a listen to Nutshell from Alice in Chains. I find it hard to listen to this song because of how emotional it is.
I find it hard to really see any good mainstream music nowadays as comparable to these two bands. When I hear bands being compared to Nirvana or Alice in Chains, I never get the same feeling as when I hear these two bands. It all sounds so fake. I'm going to end this with some classic songs from both bands. First some Nirvana songs which really showcase how great of a band they were.
Aneurysm live at Reading festival 1992
Alice in Chains - Man In The Box
Mad Season - I Don't Know Anything