"Jimi Hendrix deceased, drugs. Janis Joplin deceased, alcohol. Mama Cass deceased, ham sandwich."

Martok and I were at the bar last weekend and "Pretty Noose" was playing. "Great song, sucks that he hung himself" was his remark which got us talking: was Pearl Jam the only grunge band that had a happy ending?

Let's run through the list Austin Powers style.

  1. Nirvana: Let's get the biggest and most obvious one out of the way. Kurt Cobain died tragically on April 5th 1994 from a tragic self-inflicted long-range shotgun blast.
  2. Soundgarden:Since it was his song that started the conversation, let's move onto Chris Cornell. Oddly enough I actually remember when I learned he died, which was also the case with Cobain. Unlike Cobain he didn't die at the height of his popularity, though its worth noting his biggest ever hit came in 2006.
  3. Stone Temple Pilots: Scott Weiland actually died only a couple of years before Cornell, which is a shock since I always remember him having died years and years ago. Fun fact, STP reunited and played a music festival in Calgary in 2008: Martok attended but I didn't. He also saw Chris Cornell play in Edmonton in 2016.
  4. Blind Melon: Blind Melon was much less of a famous band, and didn't have nearly as many big hits as some of the others on this list. It was most famous actually for the much-publicized incident where lead singer Shannon Hoon urinated on the crowd in Vancouver. This was a big deal (though K'mpec has noted that as recently as 2022 despite the pandemic Hugh Dillon from The Headstones is still spitting on people), and the next time Hoon made the news was two years later when he was found dead on tour from a cocaine-induced heart attack.
  5. Smashing Pumpkins: Everybody from the Smashing Pumpkins is still alive, everybody, calm down. They just all wish each other dead which is more or less the same thing in the music world. Their breakup in the year 2000 pretty much officially marked the end of the grunge era. Billy Corgan was pretty much at Harlan Ellison levels of famously grumpy by the time their music made it onto the Batman Forever soundtrack.
  6. Alice in Chains: Alice and Chains was part of the original Seattle grunge scene. While not as huge as some of these other acts, they were solid and well regarded in their own right. Until 2002, of course, when lead singer Layne Stanley died from an overdose of speed. This might have been who I was confusing Scott Weiland with.
  7. Mad Season:We're out of the "Big 5" of Grunge (the Pumpkins and Blind Melon don't make the list, and obviously Pearl Jam isn't going to appear), but Mad Season is one of those Velvet Underground level of anybody who loves grunge loves them. In 1997 Layne Stanley left the band, and then in 1999 bassist and founder John Saunders left this mortal coil.
  8. Temple of the Dog: Okay I'm kind of cheating here. I just finished saying the Big 5 wouldn't on this list, however Temple of the Dog is just Pearl Jam plus Chris Cornell.
  9. 7 Year Bitch: I'm sure somewhere somebody is muttering "7 Year Bitch is Riotgrrl, not Grunge", but between the violent murder of their musical idol Mia Zapata and the 1992 death caused by drinking and heroin of Stephanie Sargeant certainly puts them squarely in the tragedy section.
  10. Sublime: Okay now surely half of you are complaining, but Grunge.com had no problem calling Sublime a grunge band so don't go looking at me funny. Obviously if you've heard of Sublime you'll know that their lead singer Bradley Nowell died in 1998 and on the bright side it's the only real reason anybody has heard of Sublime.
  11. Screaming Trees: Screaming Trees, like Mad Season, was in the solid B- or even C-grade of grunge bands. It's unclear what actually killed founding member Mark Lanegan last year at a relatively young age (he survived COVID).
  12. Bush: Like the Pumpkins they didn't have to deal with the death of any key members of the band. Also like the Pumpkins, they have to deal with the egotistical antics of their lead singer.
  13. Pennywise: Pennywise is another "not really grunge but kinda" group. They certainly have enough tragedy to become an honourary member. The only song worth mentioning of theirs, Bro Hymn, was written after numerous friends of bassist Jason Thirsk died in the late 80s and early 90s. By 1996 the song was re-released "for Jason" after he also died of a Kurt Cobain.