The tragic suicide of Kurt Cobain is one of the most often discussed deaths in music history. Partially, this is because of Nirvana’s continuing musical legacy, and partially, it’s because Cobain is survived by his fellow rock star wife, Courtney Love, and their daughter Frances Bean Cobain.
Drugs and fame were obviously key factors in Cobain’s eventual death in 1994 — he was found with a lethal dose of heroin in his system and a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head — but according to a new book, Alice In Chains: The Untold Story, Love had her suspicions about whether or not her husband had actually committed suicide. Layne Staley of Alice In Chains was also a frequent heroin user/addict at the time of Cobain’s death, and Love reportedly tried to track him down soon after to see if he knew anything about the tragedy.
Here’s the relevant passage from the book:
A few weeks after Cobain’s death, Jim Elmer [Layne Staley’s stepfather] got a call from Courtney Love. She had been trying to get ahold of Layne and somehow got Elmer’s phone number. According to him, they spoke twice. “The gist of the conversation was that she was looking for Layne because she knew Layne and Kurt were friends and wanted to find out what happened the last few days, that she intimated to me that she was not happy with the outcome that it was a suicide. She thought there was more to it than that, and she wanted to chase down Layne and have a discussion with him.”
Love was probably assuming that because Cobain and Layne ran in the same social circles — musicians, drug users, and drug dealers — he might have seen Cobain or have some knowledge of his final days. Whether Layne saw Cobain during his final days is not known, but there is evidence of at least one mutual drug connection.
As The New York Daily News point outs, the book talks about Staley and Cobain striking a deal while Nirvana and Alice In Chains were both on tour in Rio de Janeiro. Cobain reportedly agreed to pay for the heroin if Staley paid to have it flown into Brazil.
According to the book, Staley also expressed his uncertainty that Cobain would commit suicide:
“I saw all the suffering that Kurt Cobain went through,” Layne would recall. “I didn’t know him real well, but I just saw this vibrant person turn into a real shy, timid, withdrawn, introverted person who could hardly get a hello out.” Layne’s private views were skeptical of the official story. “Layne was a little more vocal on the Kurt issue, because he never thought Kurt would take his won life,” Jeff Elmer said. “He mentioned that multiple times, about that issue, that he never did believe it. And so this was not right after he died, this was years after, too. He still remembered that and just thought that was not characteristic of Kurt.”
That Brazil trip is also the context for former AIC bassist Mike Starr’s story about dying temporarily after Staley and Cobain took turns shooting him up. As The New York Daily News retells it:
That night, Alice in Chains bassist Mike Starr, who had just been tossed from the band, claimed he actually died and came back as he bounced from shooting up with one famed musician to the other.
“Layne shot me up first a couple of times. Then Kurt shot me, and then Layne shot me after that and I died, for like 11 minutes.”
Sadly, Staley himself would OD himself from a lethal mixture of heroin and cocaine known as a “speedball” in 2002.