The Gore and Glory of ’90s Grunge: Musicians Who Left Too Soon

A big chunk of the ’90s music scene is all about grunge rock. A fusion of punk music and heavy metal—the genre filled radio stations with angsty songs that resonate to the ideals of the rebellious teens.

As a result, artists sprung from underground musicians to international rock stars, becoming instant celebrities overnight. The irony between the grunge’s anti-mainstream roots and the sudden burst to fame became the foundation of that period’s cultural revolution.

Despite being filthy rich, these musicians’ lives weren’t as glamorous as portrayed in the media. While their legacy lives beyond the ’90s, it still seems too sudden how some of the grunge movement’s front-liners left their fans too soon. It is also shocking how most of them departed from this world which, in some cases, was an escape from the nightmare their lives had become.

Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain was one of the most famous faces of the grunge is Nirvana’s frontman. The band is probably one of the first to break free from the underground music scene with MTV’s release of the band’s “Smells like a Teen Spirit” music video.

Kurt Cobain was very open about the struggles he faced while growing up

One of the most iconic music videos in the world of grunge, it perfectly highlighted the look of the ’90s—worn-out Chuck Taylors, unwashed hair, and a subtle hint of irony with the presence of cheerleaders.

Cobain had a tough life growing up – he witnessed his parents’ divorce and also suffered domestic abuse at the hands of his step father. Cobain was only 27 when he took his own life, leaving his then-wife and one of grunge rock’s muses, Courtney Love, and their daughter, Frances Bean behind.

Kristen Pfaff

Another member of the 27 Club, Kristen Pfaff was a bassist for the bands Janitor Joe and Hole. Coincidently, Pfaff was one of Cobain’s close friends who overdosed on opium two months after the untimely demise of the Nirvana frontman. Pfaff’s death was the second shock to the industry that year.

Kristen Pfaff was a bass guitarist for the band Hole whose lead singer was Courtney Love, Kurt Cobain’s widower

Prior to becoming a grunge bass guitarist, Pfaff was a women’s studies graduate and an active supporter of women’s rights. She became a counselor for assault victims. After her death, Hole dedicated their tour and also their only compilation album, “My Body, the Hand Grenade” to Pfaff.

Layne Staley

With his signature voice and style, grunge fanatics will never forget Layne Staley, the lead vocals for Alice in Chains. One of the grunge era’s iconic frontmen, he died of accidental drug overdose exactly eight years after Kurt Cobain’s death. He was only 34 at the time.

Layne Staley was found dead in his home 14 days after his assumed day of death. He died of accidental cocaine overdose

Alice in Chains’ debut album, “Facelift,” was released on 1990 and was a certified double platinum. The second single from the album titled “Man in the Box,” which was written by Staley himself, became a huge hit because of its distinctive sound. Though his rise from a subculture musician in Seattle was colorful, years leading to his death were not. He started avoiding the public eye from 1997, with reports saying he only consumed Ensure for his sustenance.

He  died on April 19, 2002 with his body partially decomposing that authorities needed to compare dental records to make sure it was Staley’s. Jerry Cantrell, Alice in Chains’ lead guitarist, dedicated his solo album “Degradation Trip,” to Staley, which was released two months after his accidental death.

Chris Cornell

One of the most recent losses of the grunge rock industry is Soundgarden and Audioslave vocalist Chris Cornell. Regarded as one of the foundations of the ’90s grunge movement, Cornell was known for his amazing four-octave vocal range and belting techniques, as well as his wide contribution to the music industry. The two-time Grammy-award winner also ranked 9th in the Rolling Stone’s “Best Lead Singers of All Time” list.

Chris Cornell was found dead in a hotel room’s bathroom on May 18, 2017. He took his own life by hanging

Died at the age of 52 on May 18, 2017, Cornell took his own life in his hotel room in MGM Grand, Detroit. This was after his performance with his former band, Soundgarden on the Fox Theatre the day before.

Prior to his death, fans already knew about of his struggles with mental health issues and substance abuse. He was very open about his addiction and even admitted to going to rehab before.

On the day of Cornell’s supposed 53rd birthday, one of his close friends and lead singer for Linkin Park, Chester Bennington, also ended his life, cutting his brilliant career short.