Mike Starr, the original bassist in Alice In Chains who recently appeared on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab, died March 8th in Salt Lake City of unknown causes. He was 44. Starr played with the grunge band on their first two studio LP’s – including their hit singles “Rooster” and “Man In The Box” – before leaving the band in 1993. He struggled with drugs during much of the past two decades, and last month was arrested in Salt Lake City after being caught with unauthorized prescription drugs.
Alice In Chains came together in Seattle in 1987, right as the local music scene was taking off with groups like Mudhoney and Mother Love Bone. Sensing the changing times, Columbia Records signed the band in 1989 and the next year they released their debut Facelift. The group opened up for Iggy Pop, Van Halen, Extreme and Poison as their song “Man In The Box” climbed the charts – but Starr battled with drug addiction during much of his tenure in the band.
In 1993 he left the group. “It was just a difference in priorities,” lead singer Layne Staley told Rolling Stone in 1994. “We wanted to continue intense touring and press. Mike was ready to go home.” Starr later claimed that he was fired due to his drug addiction. The next year he served 90 days in jail after being caught stealing luggage from a Houston airport.
Three years after Starr left, Alice In Chains dissolved as Staley faced his own drug problems. He died of an overdose in 2002, and Starr later claimed to be the last person to see him alive. “I wish I hadn’t been high on benzodiazepine [that night],” Starr said on Celebrity Rehab. “I wouldn’t have just walked out the door.”
Starr’s appearance on the VH1 reality show rankled his former bandmates. “Addiction is no joke, and we know that firsthand,” Alice guitarist Jerry Cantrell said in 2010. “We lost a good friend of ours to that. Mike deserves a better life.”
Dr. Drew Tweeted about Starr’s death yesterday. “Devastating to hear of Mike Starr succumbing to his illness,” he wrote. “So very sad. Our prayers are with his family.”