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Mike Starr, Alice in Chains bassist, dead at 44 in Salt Lake City


Mike Starr, the original bassist for Seattle metal band Alice in Chains who was found dead Tuesday in Salt Lake City, could well have arm-wrestled with Axl Rose and the members of Guns N’ Roses over who most deserved to call an album “Appetite for Destruction.”

Rose was a champion of the group’s debut album, “Facelift,” and when fame hit for the group, the members first reveled then struggled with all the fallout from all that had been laid at their feet.
Starr was friends with Aliice in Chains guitarist and songwriter Jerry Cantrell before the band formed in 1987 with singer Layne Staley and drummer Sean Kinney. But it didn’t take long before Starr reached overload. He quit the band around the time its second album, “Dirt,” was released, a collection that went on to sell more than 4 million copies and which chronicled the dark path the group seemed to be on.

Rolling Stone magazine described that album as "a sustained, unflinching meditation on heroin addiction." Times staff writer Mike Boehm wrote in 1993 that “ ‘Dirt’ scrapes bottom with a litany of complaints sung from a deep pit of despair, self-loathing and never-ending woe.”

Shortly after taking up the bass post in the band in 1993 after Starr left, new member Mike Inez told The Times, “We're four young guys on the road with the whole world by the balls. We're like a pack. Whatever we want, we get. We wake up and we're like, 'What do we want today?' Whether it's food or girls or drugs or whatever, everything is there for you."

Having suddenly vaulted to multiplatinum success, Cantrell said at the time, "It's a weird feeling to go from nobody to everybody. You're known on a two-dimensional level. People yank on your hair, not realizing you're a real person."

Of “Dirt,” Cantrell said, "It’s a dark album, but it's not meant to be a bummer. Those five songs on the second side, from 'Junkhead' to 'Angry Chair,' are in sequence because it tells a story. It starts out with a really young, naive attitude in 'Junkhead,' like drugs are great, sex is great, rock 'n' roll, yeah! Then as it progresses, there's a little bit of realization of what it's about . . . and that ain't what it's about."

Staley died of an overdose in 2002 at age 34. Starr in recent years took his battle with addiction to the airwaves as a participant in the third season of VH1’s reality TV show “Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew,” and spoke about shooting heroin with Staley and Nirvana's Kurt Cobain. When Cantrell decided to resurrect Alice in Chains for another go-round several years ago, he tapped Inez rather than Starr to be in the reformed group. A cause of death was not immediately reported.

-- Randy Lewis

Comments () | Archives (32)

RIP man, its so sad.

i just can't believe this i thought he got clean but once your addict your an addict my late husband timmy died 3 year's ago at the age of 41 of a drug overdose may he rip he will be missed.

I woke up 2 the news of Mikes death this morning, up here in Medford Or.First off, R.I.P. Mike.U are up there with Layne and company, and probably rockin the heck out of heaven.I saw u play in 1989, at mile high stadium, opening up 4 Van Hagar.U guys were and will always be one of my favorite rock bands, hand down.U guys wrote about dark stuff, but I could relate.My partner, Nancy and I are very hurt that u didnt make it.Since we are both X-Addicts, we understand how hard it is.Even after 10 years, it is still a struggle sometimes.I thank god 4 Nancy being in my life, or I would have been dead years ago.Anyways, fly with the angels, Mike, and I am sure we will see u again someday.With Our sincerest sympathies, Nancy and Eddie

mike was a great bassist. here;s a cool online memorial for him -

This sucks!! We were definitley rooting for you as well..RIP Mike.

wonder how many millions dr. drew made from virtually watching mike starr die on that show.

I lost my best friend to drugs 6 yrs ago, we were friends, BROTHERS for 20 yrs, I tryed to help him and failed, I loved Mike on that drug rehab show, me and my mother watched it often, I related to the pain Mike was in over the loss of his friend, BROTHER! The pain of a loss of someone you love is overwhelming, Mike tryed so hard, and opened his heart to help, God and friends, his soul was reaching out, God will be able to give him the peace that sometimes humans try hard to do but cant. My prayers for his family, and friends!

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