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April 5: Remembering alt-rock giants Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley

The music world was rocked on 4/5/94 with the passing of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain. This same day in 2002 (20 years ago now), Alice in Chains frontman Layne Staley died. We'll always have the music though...

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The Day Grunge Died

In late 1991, the world of rock music changed forever. The release of Nirvana’s album Nevermind and the anthemic single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” introduced a wider world to grunge, the sound that had been bubbling under in Seattle for several years. Within 24 months Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam would be featured on the cover of Time Magazine and. along with bands like Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, these artists would findamentally influence the music and culture of the day, becoming known as the new voices of Generation X.

Unfortunately, like a shooting star that burns out quickly, the movement was short-lived. For fans of the music, one date – April 5th – stands out for not one but two deaths that brought about an end to the era.

On April 8th, 1994, Nirvana lead-singer Kurt Cobain was found dead at his Seattle home. It was determined he had died three days earlier on April 5th. The death was ruled a suicide. On the same day eight years later, Alice in Chains singer Layne Staley died of a drug overdose. Staley had been out of the public eye for some time due to ongoing drug issues but the symmetry of the two passing on the same day is not lost on fans of Grunge. Since then, Soundgarden lead singer Chris Cornell also took his own life in May of 2017, depriving the world of another of rock's great voices.

If you're looking to revisit the music of the grunge movement, or experience it for the first time here are several of the key albums of that era which you may be less familiar with:

Alice in Chains: Facelift

This was the album that started to expose rock fans to what the future was going to look like. More accessible than Soundgarden’s major label debut album Louder than Love, it was Staley and Alice in Chains that started winning over rock fans with the release of this album that includes songs like “Man in the Box” and “Sea of Sorrow.”

Temple of the Dog: Temple of the Dog & Mad Season: Above

Grouped together because they cross lines with members of multiple bands the two projects are very different. The former was created when Andy Wood, lead singer of the influential band Mother Love Bone, died in 1990. Wood’s close friend Chris Cornell channeled his grief in a set of songs that would become the Temple of the Dog album. Mad Season, which features members of Pearl Jam, the Screaming Trees and Staley on vocals, was an interesting story as the band came about after several of the players met in drug rehab.

Singles Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

If grunge was considered the voice of Generation X, there were several movies that were vying to be its visual representation. While this romcom was almost more a parody of the generation than a solid representation, the movie did expose grunge, and the greater Seattle scene, to even more potential fans. Tracks from Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and a solo, acoustic Chris Cornell song called “Seasons” are some of the highlights.

Nirvana: MTV Unplugged in New York

It would be easy to direct everyone to the Nevermind album but hearing Cobain’s voice on the haunting tracks captured at the 1993 taping for MTV Unplugged is another great way to remember the foremost voice of '90s angst.

There are many more great albums, songs, and artists representing the grunge sound that are worth exploring. To sample the best sounds of this unique moment in time, tune into AccuRadio’s channels highlighting the era: Grunge, Classic Alternative: The Grind and 1990s Alternative.

- Mike Stern

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