Layne Staley was found dead on April 19, 2002.
The death of the Nirvana front-man generally grabs more headlines. But, the story of the life and death of Layne Staley might be more heartbreaking.
Cobain quoted Neil Young in his suicide note. "It's better to burn out, than to fade away." If Cobain burned out, Staley faded away.
Staley's last live performance happened in 1996. The Alice in Chains performance on MTV's Unplugged, often considered one that show's most powerful performances, was one of the last times anybody saw Staley sing.
From 1996 to 2002, Staley rarely surfaced. He recorded a couple of songs with Alice in Chains and did some work with another project called Class of 1999. But, he never performed live and he rarely left his condo.
Layne Staley battled addiction and depression throughout the last decade of his life. His time with Alice in Chains involved multiple stints in rehab and cancelled tours.
After the death of Cobain, he started working with a side project called Mad Season. It featured Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready. McCready had also battled addiction and hoped that being surrounded by sober musicians would help Staley. The band released one album and played several shows before the members returned to their main gigs.
After Mad Season and Unplugged, Staley drifted into seclusion.
On April 4, 2002, he spent time with former Alice in Chains bassist Mike Starr. An argument drove Starr away. He was the last person to see Staley alive (Starr died in 2011 after his own public battle with addiction).
It was Staley's accountant who first noticed that something was wrong. On April 19, 2002, Staley's accountant called his former manager because no money had been taken from his bank account in over a week.
When police broke down the door, they found Staley dead.
Alice in Chains is often unfairly overlooked and overshadowed by their Seattle neighbors. Nirvana deserves a lot of credit it gets for bringing Seattle grunge to the masses. But, it should be noted that Man in the Box was the first hit from that scene.