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Remembering Alice in Chains’ Mike Starr One Year After His Tragic Death

Mike Starr
Courtesy of Columbia Records

One year after the tragic passing of Mike Starr, we look back on the career and life of the man who helped shape the future of rock with Alice in Chains.

On March 8, 2011, shockwaves were sent through the music industry when news broke of former Alice in Chains bassist Mike Starr’s passing. Like his bandmate Layne Staley before him, Starr’s demons would eventually become his undoing. His battle with substance abuse was put front and center on the VH1 show ‘Celebrity Rehab,’ which left many fans and friends hopeful that he would turn his life around. Unfortunately his story ended like so many other tragedies when Starr passed away at the age of 44.

Starr got his start in the heavy metal band SATO in 1983, which eventually lead to his stint in Gypsy Rose where he met Jerry Cantrell. The two left the band in 1987 and drafted drummer Sean Kinney to form a new band. The trio lured Cantrell’s roomate vocalist Layne Staley away from the band he was in at the time and thus, Alice in Chains was born.

Alice in Chains released ‘Facelift,’ their debut album, in 1990 and enjoyed critical and commercial success on the strength of tracks like ‘We Die Young’ and ‘Man in the Box.’ Following the Seattle grunge explosion in 1991, the band released the EP ‘Sap’ and the album ‘Dirt’ in 1992. ‘Dirt’ was where the band really found their sound — a cross-pollination of alt-rock, blues, and  heavy metal that is more emulated by hard rock bands of today than that of their grunge peers.

Shortly after ‘Dirt’ launched the band into the stratosphere, Mike Starr exited the band. At the time his departure was explained as a “difference of priorities,” but he would reveal years later that his struggles with addiction led to his expulsion from the band.

Starr was more than just the guy playing bass in Alice in Chains, he also co-wrote tracks like ‘It Ain’t Like That,’ ‘Confusion,’ and the bass-driven fan fave ‘Rain When I Die.’ Following Alice in Chains, Starr played in the short-lived Sun Red Sun and had joined Days of the New in 2010, passing shortly before their tour was set to begin.

While Starr may be gone, his legacy lives on in his music and those who remember him. In honor of Starr’s life, the Facebook page setup in his memory will be giving away “In Memory” guitar picks all week. The page is co-run by Starr’s sister Melinda, who gave us this statement regarding the support of the fans following Mike’s passing.

The outpouring of love and support that we (Mike’s family) have received this past year has been incredible. My brother touched a lot of people by being in a band that was at the forefront of creating an entirely new (kick ass) genre of music, as well as through his struggles, which have always been very public, very real, and unfortunately very sad. My brother was an amazing musician, and just as amazing of a person. All he ever wanted was to be a rock star and I’m glad his dream came true. Alice in Chains was a force to be rekoned with… and Mike was undeniably a part of that force. It’s nice to know I am not the only one who thinks so.

Video Played at Starr’s Private Memorial Service

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