April 5th, A Day To Remember Kurt And Layne, But Don’t Forget Shawn
In the world of music, April 5th is NOT a good day.
There are going to be a bunch of people who know what I am talking about, right away. And of course, there are going to be a whole lot of you who haven’t a clue (or care) about what I am rattling on about.
April 5, 1994, Kurt Cobain frontman of Nirvana, committed suicide at his home in Seattle.
April 5, 2002, Layne Staley singer of Alice in Chains was found dead in his home.
If you and I are alike, whenever either of those bands comes on the radio, you turn it up to 11 and sing as though it was always meant to be a duet. And you know every album by heart.
We all probably have our own memory of the first time we heard Nevermind (or Bleach). Mine came from my buddy Jared, he was into Bleach in a big way, and I’m not going to lie, Nirvana didn’t grab me early. But Alice in Chains did.
Layne’s voice was otherworldly. I remember Henry Rollins talking about him years ago and he said that “Layne sang from the other side” and that always stuck with me. The Alice in Chains albums are still just incredible, and in my opinion, the EPs (SAP and Jar of Flies) are perfect.
The one guy missing from this April 5th discussion is Shawn Smith.
Shawn Smith passed away on April 5, 2019. Shawn was another incredible Seattle musician that didn’t quite get the spotlight he deserved. He was at the front of three bands, Brad, Pigeonhead, and Satchel. Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam was a member of Brad, and Kim Thayil of Soundgarden played on the Pigeonhead albums extensively.
Kurt and Layne will never be forgotten, and I don’t want Shawn to be either.
My wife and I got married in 2000, and for our honeymoon went to Seattle for the Bumbershoot Arts and Music Festival. We were able to see an insane number of musicians over the span of a long weekend, but the one I will never forget is Shawn Smith. He had one guitar, and a piano, and it was truly amazing.
Fast forward to 2018, on his Facebook page, Shawn had a post questioning if anyone would ever want handwritten lyrics to his songs. I nearly spit out my damn teeth, I couldn’t respond fast enough, and I will never be able to express how incredibly nice he was. Truly.
It started with what song I would like lyrics from, to us talking about why that song, to me fanboying out over his Bumbershoot set, to him questioning himself (and others) why they never asked him to come back to Bumbershoot. After he put it in the mail he checked in several times to make sure it got to me safe and sound.
I may have even tried to convince him he should play in Montana.
Shawn died at the age of 53 from complications from Diabetes.
So please, turn Nirvana and Alice in Chains up loud enough for the neighbors to enjoy, but don’t forget to mix Satchel and Brad in as well.