Alice in Chains singer Layne Staley dies on April 5, 2002.

  • By Alyssa Burrows
  • Posted 5/16/2002
  • Essay 3778
See Additional Media

On April 5, 2002, Layne Staley (1967-2002), singer, guitarist, and frontman for the popular Seattle band Alice in Chains, dies of a drug overdose.  He was 34.  The singer is found dead in his University District condominium on April 19.  A relative contacts police when she hasn't heard from him in about two weeks. Officers break down the door to gain entry and find Staley on the couch, "obviously deceased," with drug paraphernalia nearby. The King County Medical Examiner's  Office autopsy report, released on May 6, will conclude that Staley died from an overdose of heroin and cocaine on April 5. The death is listed as accidental.

Alice in Chains

Alice in Chains gained national fame in the early 1990s as part of Seattle's "grunge" music phenomenon, along with Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana. Alice in Chains' distinctive sound came from Staley's vocal style and his lyrics dealing with personal struggles and addiction. Alice in Chains stopped touring in the mid-1990s when Staley's admitted drug use worsened.

On April 20, the day after Staley was found, Cain Rurup, an Alice in Chains fan, organized a candlelight vigil at the International Fountain at Seattle Center. More than 200 friends and fans attended. Staley's mother, father, and sister were there, as well as Alice in Chains band members Jerry Cantrell, Mike Inez, and Sean Kinney. Former band member Mike Starr, ex-Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell, and Susan Silver, Cornell's wife and Alice in Chains' manager, were also in attendance.

Prophetically, Alice in Chains' first release (1990) was an EP titled "We Die Young."


"Seattle Police Incident Report No. 02-168475," (; Gene Stout, "Fans Mourn Death of Alice in Chains Singer," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 20, 2002, (; "Rock Singer Lay Dead for Two Weeks," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 22, 2002 (; Candace Heckman, "Staley's Death was from a Mix of Heroin and Cocaine," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 7, 2002 (; "Lead singer of Alice in Chains Died of Heroin, Cocaine Overdose," The Seattle Times, May 8, 2002; Matthew Fox, "Layne Staley Remembered," The Stranger, April 25-May 1, 2002.

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You