INTERESTING BITS: Five Songs That Show Off Layne Staley’s Amazing Voice
Today [August 22nd] marks what would have been the 50th birthday of Alice in Chains and Mad Season singer Layne Staley, who passed away from a drug overdose at the age of 34. Here are five songs that show off what a talented voice we lost on April 5th, 2002:
1. “Man in the Box” (Alice in Chains) – If any song truly shows how Layne’s voice was an instrument in and of itself, it’s this one, which kicks off with the rocker’s vocals matching the opening guitar riffs. He goes on to powerfully deliver the lyrics, which include prophetic lines like “Won’t you come and save me.”
2. “River of Deceit” (Mad Season) – For Mad Season’s best-known single, Layne softened his voice as he sung in part about the drug addiction that eventually would take his life.
3. “Nutshell” (Alice in Chains Unplugged) – “Nutshell” is already a song that shows Layne’s range, from his gravely lower register to his soft falsetto, but the version the band performed on MTV Unplugged makes the track even more emotional than it already is. Hearing Staley accompanied by acoustic guitars singing lyrics about loneliness and death easily brings on the chills.
4. “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” (Class of ’99) – During their short tenure, Class of ’99, which included Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello and drummer Stephen Perkins of Jane’s Addiction, covered Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2).” The song is already pretty haunting but Layne’s voice takes it to another level.
5. “The Rooster” (Alice in Chains) – “The Rooster” encompasses Layne’s ability to tell a story with his voice. The song’s powerful lyrics, which describe guitarist Jerry Cantrell’s father reliving some of the horrors of the Vietnam War, are complimented perfectly by Staley’s vocals, which go from calm and collected to raging and loud.
By Dave Basner
Original article includes videos of all five songs: