Remembering 10 Grunge Legends We’ve Lost

Edited by Brett Buchanan

As the holidays approach, I feel the overwhelming need to write this after the recent passing of Scott Weiland. We take for granted that our favorite musicians will always be there, but the truth is, life happens, and circumstances in their own lives change, and they are gone.

We’ve lost so many people from the 90’s grunge/alternative rock music scene, and we should not forget them as 2015 concludes, or ever for that matter. The gifts we’ve received from them will last forever, and I am grateful for that. My thoughts go out to their friends, families, and significant others as well, hoping they know the fans are still with them.

Drug addiction is such a hard thing to talk about, so I won’t, but I know all too well the impact it leaves on the living, as I lost my husband in 2010 to a prescription narcotic drug overdose. I then lost my father from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease just 4 days later. The sadness subsides, but never really goes away.

I’d like to take this time to remember those that I often think of and had a huge impact on my ‘alternative music days’ years ago, which I still listen to and love. I’d like to note that not all the artists listed below died of a drug overdose from addiction.

In memory of:

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Andrew Wood, Vocals, Piano, Guitar-Malfunkshun, Mother Love Bone

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Stefanie Sargent, Guitar – 7 Year Bitch

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Mia Zapata, Vocals, Piano, Guitar – The Gits

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Kurt Cobain, Lead vocals, Guitar – Nirvana

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Shannon Hoon, Lead vocals, Guitar, Various instruments – Blind Melon

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John Baker Saunders, Bass – Mad Season, The Walkabouts

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Ben McMillan, Lead vocals, Guitar – Gruntruck

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Layne Staley, Lead vocals, Guitar – Alice in Chains, Mad Season

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Michael Starr, Bass – Alice in Chains, Red Sun Red

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Scott Weiland, Lead vocals – Stone Temple Pilots, Velvet Revolver

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The biggest losses for me personally were Layne Staley and Mike Starr. Both were such talented musicians, and part of a musical phenomenon that still continues to this day, Alice In Chains. I previously wrote about the sound that Layne and Jerry Cantrell created when singing together, an unparalleled duo to date. Mike Starr played his bass guitar with unmatched aggressiveness.

Unfortunately, thinking about their deaths puts me into a depression, something I cannot explain. But I knew it was time to pull out the music again as I wrote this article, so I started playing Facelift, SAP, Dirt, Jar of Flies and Alice in Chains. I’m sure many of you have done the same when missing Layne, as for me the music is healing. Although the lyrics state something of despair, I find the opposite in their music, and it gets me back to living my life again rather being stuck in a state of depression.

This past August, I brought candles to the Layne Staley and Mike Starr annual vigil at the Seattle Center fountain. Every single person listed above (except for Scott Weiland) had a candle. We even had a candle for Layne Staley’s beautiful ex-fiance Demri Parrott, because the impact she had on so many people.

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There have obviously been others that we’ve lost, but the ones listed above I either met in person, or saw live in Seattle. However, I can honestly say that I never got to see Scott Weiland live, but I have always loved the music of Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver.

If you have a musician that you have loved and lost, and you haven’t listened to their music for a while, I urge all of you to find the albums, or CD’s, and dust them off and play them. I bet you will feel a sense of happiness in what they left behind, as I did with Layne and Mike.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and wish you joy and happiness into the next year. I also hope you remember the great music these artists have left behind.

  • Pingback: Remembering 10 Grunge Legends We’ve Lost | The Rocker Underground

  • Felonious Punk

    Since AltNation posts a lot of lists and Corndog had the music library shuffle idea earlier in the day, how about a new game where we all list our top five favorite grunge-era bands and see who the true kings are amongst the readers here. This was the “Grunge Report” for a long time, after all. Might be a neat way to honor the fallen and close out 2015.

    Maybe keep the bands between the years of 1988-1995, since that was the peak timeframe for the grunge genre. Would be neat to see where everyone’s allegiances fall. And Corndog, you’re not allowed to post the five members of Pearl Jam for each of your five bands, sorry.

    I’ll go first:

    1. Nirvana

    2. Soundgarden

    3. Stone Temple Pilots

    4. Alice In Chains

    5. Screaming Trees

    Blind Melon also came close in my list.

    • Corndog

      First off, let me Say to Cindy that i am very sorry to hear about your husband and father. That can’t have been easy. You have my sympathies, and my respect for being able to share that with the rest of us.

      Now, on to Punky’s list. Seeing as i am not allowed to post all 5 members of Pearl Jam, i guess i’ll have to pick bands. You said Grunge era, right, not necessarily a band that was called grunge?

      1. Pearl Jam. (come on, what did you think i was going to say?)
      2. Smashing Pumpkins.
      3. Screaming Trees.
      4. Mudhoney.
      5. Nirvana. (Not a massive fan these days and i rarely ever listen to them, but i had to have them on the list as i loved them when i was a kid.)

      Ok, i tried to keep it to bands that would be considered ‘grunge’ but i’d like to give an honourable mention to L7, Faith No More and Rage Against The Machine as i was really into those bands in the time frame Punky has specified. Oh yeah, and Dinosaur Jr. Too.

      • Mich Uscanga

        1. Nirvana
        2. Pearl Jam
        3. Alice in Chains
        4. Stone temple pilots
        5. And anything else would just be to fill up number 5 but i’m good to go with these.

      • Angrytomato

        L7 would be a pretty appropriate grunge-related choice.

    • Corndog

      You seem to have accidentally omitted Pearl Jam from your list. They were supposed to be No.1, right?

      • Felonious Punk

        Their first three albums are classics, no question. Then their album quality drove off a cliff or something.

        And while those three albums are indeed terrific, the other five bands I listed all put out much better albums between ’88-’95, in my opinion

        • Corndog

          I was actually surprised that you didn’t include the Foos on your list. Their first album came out around 95, right?

          • Felonious Punk

            Nah, different era. That was Nirvana’s time. Ironically though, that first Foos album is still my favorite Foos album overall.

          • Corndog

            Although i very rarely listen to Nirvana these days, i felt it only fair to include them on my list as there was a time when i really loved them.

            Hard as it may be to believe, there was a very brief moment in my history when i actually preferred Nirvana to Pearl Jam.

            Did i ever tell you, the first time i heard Ten i thought it was absolute shite?

          • Felonious Punk

            It’s been known to happen.

    • halcyon

      1. Alice in Chains
      2. Mad Season

      3. Pearl Jam
      4. Mother Love Bone
      5. Nirvana

    • dakotablue

      1. Alice in Chains…always and forever
      2. Mad Season
      3. Stone Temple Pilots
      4. Soundgarden
      5. Screaming Trees/Mark Lanegan

      honorable mention: RATM (though not really grunge but is STP, either?)

      • Felonious Punk

        One could definitely shoehorn STP into the grunge genre. Purple is one of the hallmark albums of that era.

      • Angrytomato

        STP is much, much closer to grunge than RATM (particularly first 2 albums).

  • Raj

    1.Nirvana
    2.Alice in Chains
    3.Stone Temple Pilots
    4.Soundgarden
    are my top 4. 2 and 3 could be interchangeable though. Way too many great musicians taken from us too early in the 90s. The biggest losses for me are Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley and Scott Weiland.

  • Rush Crubbs

    cool to read about great late rockstars here, especially Ben McMillan. Gruntruck and Skin Yard were so underrated. sorry for my English if I’m wrong

    • Corndog

      Your English is absolutely fine:)

      • Rush Crubbs

        thanks, man

  • Ben

    Way too many losses…. not that the number is what matters.

  • http://www.cuntcertfy.nut/ Whip

    You left out Elliott Smith of Heatmiser (and his solo work)… I’m not sure if they fit the bill as being grunge, but they were definitely rock alternative and from neighboring Seattle metropolis, Portland, Oregon. Elliott Smith battled drug addiction, alcoholism, and depression and took his own life in 2003. I recommend listening to any Heatmiser or Elliot Smith solo stuff. Roman Candle is an amazing song.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZrcTh2-uvQ

    • Captain Sarcasm

      Yeah, Elliott Smith was in no way, shape, or form “grunge,” dude.

      • Corndog

        Who?

        • Captain Sarcasm

          Ay, caramba… They deleted their post.

          • Corndog

            Yeah i noticed the deleted post. For the record, it wasn’t me!

          • Captain Sarcasm

            Oh, I didn’t think so.

  • Bella Corday

    Alice in Chains for me was the most important of the Grunge movement. Layne’s vocals are unmatched and his harmonies with Jerry have transcended the two decades since beautifully. Alice in Chains is so often underrated and pushed into the shadow of Nirvana. Alice opened doors and Nirvana plowed right through, Nirvana’s defining moment of immortality was Kurt’s death, I honestly believe without that moment things would have been much different. Not with Layne, his addiction was much too deep, but rather with the way people think of the Grunge movement and the bands that mattered most.

    Not that any of the people listed are less important, I loved them all. It just seemed to me Layne had something a bit more special.

    • Corndog

      I’ve often thought that about Nirvana too. I honestly don’t think they would be held in anywhere near the regard they are today had Cobain not killed himself. I believe that his shortcomings as a singer/lyricist and songwriter would have some become clear had he released another album or two.

      • Bella Corday

        Yes, I firmly believe one more is all it would have taken. People were still riding the Smells Like Teen Spirit wave when he committed suicide.

        • Corndog

          Agreed. You could already (in my humble opinion) see a marked decrease in song-writing quality from Nevermind to In Utero. By that stage, i honestly think that musically Cobain’s best days were behind him.

          • Bella Corday

            Yes, I also believe they were behind him. The only song that stands out is You Know You’re Right and I have a feeling it took a lot of material searching to come up with that one.

          • Corndog

            I completely forgot that song even existed! I don’t think i have heard that since around the time it was released. I think it was on some sort of greatest hits type album or something, right? By that stage, my interest in Nirvana had pretty much dropped off to nothing.

          • Bella Corday

            I believe it was a greatest hits thing. Anything to keep making money on something that should have been long gone. I am typing this while wearing a NIrvana shirt, a gift from someone who knew I like grunge. Sad isn’t it, and it proves our point, you say grunge and everyone immediately connects Nirvana.

          • Corndog

            Indeed. They were and still are the ‘poster boys’ for that genre of music.

          • Bella Corday

            Poster boys indeed. I get more emotion from the vocals of, say…Pearl Jam’s Black, or Alice in Chains’ Confusion, than from any of Nirvana’s entire catalog,

          • Corndog

            I hear you on Black. I love that song!

            Emotion in music is very important to me. There are times where i will actually avoid music like Pearl Jam (if i’m already feeling a bit low for whatever reason) because i know what an emotional effect it can have on me. I think to be great, music should elicit emotions. I have never felt moved by a Nirvana song, in the same fashion that a song like Release by Pearl Jam can and has moved me to tears on more than one occasion.

          • Bella Corday

            The whole point of music is to elicit a feeling. Alice in Chains tends to pull the most emotion from me. Layne’s vocals can be heartbreaking. Though I remember the first time I heard Black. You know it is a brilliant song when you remember the first time you heard it and the feelings it invoked.

          • Corndog

            Pearl Jam do the same for me. Nothing and no one in music has ever been able to move me in the way that Eddie Vedder does. If i wasn’t an atheist, i’d say that voice was god given! He can elate me, or completely destroy me with a word. It is a wonderful talent to have.

          • Bella Corday

            Exactly the way I feel about Layne Staley’s vocals. Even though I admit there have been times when Pearl Jam had the perfect song for my mood at the time. There are others as well. Sometimes I like to listen to Mother Love Bone’s Stardog Champion just because I love the way Andy sings it.

          • Mich Uscanga

            I’m a loyal fan of Nirvana… the emotions I feel with Nirvana are different with Pearl Jam. With Nirvana I feel extreme happiness and that i’m strong…. with Pearl Jam I feel I could cry because Eddie’s voice is so beautiful and I love him lol.

          • Clarence Dass

            Tell me about it bro. “Yellow Ledbetter” is my go to song when I’m down.

            Nirvana was a lot of fun to listen to when I was younger though. I just can’t relate to them now. Bands like Pearl Jam, Alice (Even after Staley’s death) and Sound Garden had a sound that grew with the band members and reflected on whatever challenges they faced. Where as Nirvana will forever be the angry the child because that’s how Cobain left it.

          • Corndog

            I feel the same way about Nirvana. I loved them when I was 13 years old but they just don’t really do anything for me now.

          • Bella Corday

            I kind of think the angry child was intentional. I think he was too determined to join the 27 club.

            I have to admit I never really related to Nirvana back then. I was 23 when the grunge movement began and though I saw all of the big 4 of grunge in concert at some point Alice left the biggest impression. Layne was amazing, he will always be the best with me. Cornell was outstandng, Vedder’s stage presence just blew us away. I loved them all.

            I saw Nirvana at Trees in Dallas, you can see how that went on YouTube, Look it up…Dallas, Trees, 10/19/1991. I remember the exact date because my son was born that day two years later.

          • Raj

            Nevermind is a very polished album, I don’t think the songwriting ability decrease. They wanted to go back to the raw sound that was Bleach, they layered vocals and guitars a lot on Nevermind. Tons of Nirvana fans pick In Utero over Nevermind any day of the week.

          • Corndog

            Just out of curiosity, would you say you preferred In Utero or Bleach? I personally prefer Bleach. I think In Utero was the beginning of the end of Nirvana for me. It is where i completely lost interest. Actually i’d rather listen to Incesticide than In Utero too, although i rarely ever listen to Nirvana at all these days. Normally only if they come on when my Ipod is shuffled.

          • Raj

            I do prefer Bleach and Incesticide as it seems more representative and closer to the Nirvana sound. Bleach is very raw, sludgy and bass driven but also one dimensional. I found Incesticide more treble driven lots of short punk/pop rock but more diverse. In Utero is a lot more experimental and there are some pretty good tracks there. It’s like a mixture of everything Nirvana at that point. I think Cobain wanted to change the sound and experiment more but not alienate his fans. I read Cobain wanted to do a double album half electric and half acoustic like the Pumpkins did with Mellon Collie.

          • Corndog

            I actually play bass (extremely badly). I wonder if that is perhaps why i prefer Bleach?

            I honestly don’t think that Cobain had the chops to pull off something like Mellon Collie. Whiny, obnoxious little bitch that he may be, Corgan is a supremely talented musician and Cobain couldn’t come close to him with regards to song writing ability.

            I should stress that anything that i say about Nirvana is stated only as my opinion and not intended to be in any way offered as fact. I’m aware of their standing in music history and i know that i seem to be very much in the minority when it comes to opinion of them. Still interesting to discuss though. Thanks for your thoughts:)

          • Hwang Sunghyeop

            Incesticide and Bleach are good examples.

        • Megan Stewart

          Without a doubt Nirvana was finished. Ghrol (now with pop band the foo fighters) was already leaving the band and rumors were that the band was all but done. Possibly one of the reasons for the suicide. There is a chance he could have done some good stuff as a solo artist, but I am doubting it. He was extremely limited talent wise. Most who die young are elevated way beyond what they were just a week before they died and Cobain was no different. If he was still alive people get to see him start to go bald or weight gain or any other thing that could happen as one gets older. They stay forever young by dying and this lets them stay mystical. Also we didn’t get to see he basically only ever had one thing to say….which was that life sucks. He didn’t have the vocals or the guitar playing or the spirit to continue to touch people after his initial say. Cobain was so jealous of Eddie Vedder that it was cringe worthy to watch. Cobain’s own heroes thought Pearl Jam were amazing and I’m guessing that’s what caused that shift in him accepting he was gonna be second fiddle. Nirvana was a really good band. They were elevated to all time great AFTER the singer killed himself. But who cares really, I still choose life over fame.

          • Bella Corday

            Good points all the way around. Ever notice how there was not a lot of public interaction between Nirvana and the other big 4 bands? I have seen Vedder, Cornell, and Staley together in interviews on numerous occasions but I never saw Cobain publicly interact with them. It was like he was deliberately setting them apart. Not saying anything bad about him as a person. I have spoken to people who say quite the opposite, but, could he have possibly been so determined to bring immortality to his band that he would kill himself to achieve it?

          • Raj

            Cobain did collaborate with Mark Lanegan on Down in the Dark, maybe publicly he didn’t hang out with them but that was just him mabye. He often spoke of collaborating with REM’s Michael Stipe. Cobain did a picture with Flea!

          • Raj

            I don’t agree that Nirvana was finished, In Utero debuted at #1, all the rumours were started by all those authors writing Nirvana books and spreading lies. The beauty of Cobain was that he did not need to be a great guitar player, playing sloppy was part of the punk ideology. Cobain never needed to be the greatest singer. It’s the songwriting the elevated him. I don’t think he was ever second fiddle to Vedder. If Vedder died in 1994 would we be having the same conversation about Pearl Jam?

          • Hwang Sunghyeop

            Exactly.

      • Mich Uscanga

        I’m a loyal fan of Nirvana… the emotions I feel with Nirvana are different with Pearl Jam. With Nirvana I feel extreme happiness and that i’m strong…. with Pearl Jam I feel I could cry because Eddie’s voice is so beautiful and I love him lol

        • Corndog

          I love him too. Total man crush:)

          • Mich Uscanga

            he’s so beautiful, when he was young around 1992 omg my ideal perfect man…. i can watch him all day lol

          • Corndog

            Get in line. I’m pretty sure I saw him first. :)

      • Raj

        Maybe, I think Cobain’s songwriting is pretty solid given that he was writing songs like Sappy, In Bloom, Spank Thru very early in Nirvana’s career. A lot of songs that Nirvana did not release as singles are just as strong if not better than their singles which speaks volumes about the artist ability to deliver quality.

        • Corndog

          That can be said about a lot of bands though. Look at The Pumpkins for example. You can find stuff on their albums that is infinitely better than the singles.

          You know i really don’t know what it is with Nirvana, why exactly i fell out of love with them kinda thing. When i listen to them today i just don’t seem to get any excitement from them, or any emotional resonance. They just don’t do it for me anymore.

          They are unique in that they are possibly the only band that i listened to from that era (early 90’s) that i no longer listen to. It’s no secret that i am a big PJ fan, and if anything i listen to Ten more now than i did then!

    • Raj

      I agree that Alice in Chains were underrated heavily, maybe Nirvana was immortalized through Kurt’s death but you could argue that for a number of other artists that died in their prime. You could also argue that Soundgarden opened the doors just as Alice did.

      • Hwang Sunghyeop

        Agreed! Not to be a general type.

  • michael chavez

    All great musicians. I would, however, disagree with some of them being thought of as grunge. STP was rock. Blind Melon? Alternative. But, like pretty much everything with music, it’s open to interpretation and opinion. Good list, regardless.

  • Bella Corday

    I seem to have avoided my list of grunge bands. They are:

    1 Alice in Chains

    2 Mad Season

    3 Mother Love Bone

    4 Soundgarden

    5 Pearl Jam

  • Hwang Sunghyeop

    Top Band
    1. Nirvana 2. STP 3. AIC 4. Pearl Jam 5. Soundgarden
    Well I do not think those no. is important. Because most of people changed that no. usually except your personal hero.

  • BlueFlameFord

    Always nice to see some respect for Ben McMillan. It’s amazing how many unique voices the scene had.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmjJcCutAXE

  • Angrytomato

    I didn’t know about the Gruntruck singer, man, so many losses.

    (Not too sure about Blind Melon being grunge, though I know the loss was rather in that ‘time and place’ of music.)