At 2:36 this morning, I had a major last minute jam fest of nothing but Scott Weiland‘s voice. While browsing the homepage of Gothamist.com, I gasped when I read the news in front of me that Weiland had passed away, at the age of 48. He was found dead on his tour bus, of cardiac arrest, in Minnesota. He was on the road with his current group The Wildabouts.
Though the California native fronted one of the biggest bands of the alternative rock era in the 1990s, Stone Temple Pilots, Weiland became more widely framed by his addiction to drugs, and for hard ones like heroin and cocaine. By 1996, his addiction had gotten so bad, the tour for STP’s album Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop was off and on and eventually canceled due to his many court dates and rehabilitation. It was a shame to see. Weiland’s husky yet soulful voice were the heart of some of STP’s most revelatory music moments (as was bass guitarist Robert De Leo‘s smooth harmonizing). Their appearance on MTV’s Unplugged remains a fave of those who watched the series, and of course STP fans. The performance of “Creep” is a seminal example of ’90s rock (acoustic) greatness. Singles like “Creep” otherwise showed that they weren’t Nirvana rip-offs and Weiland’s earnest lyrics of defeat and the will to change still held past 1994.
“I’m half the man I used to be..” (Creep, 1994)
Weiland was one of the few male artists that also used the blueprint David Bowie left behind in mind-fucking with people’s heads fashionably. He sometimes performed on stage in womens-wear and vibrant wigs. Shenanigans aside, Pilots’ first two albums Core and Purple, sold well off of Tower Records and HMV shelves. (I love Purple).
In 1998, he released his only solo record 12 Bar Blues. The album cover was a direct tribute to John Coltrane‘s Blue Train.
He returned with STP in 1999 with No. 4, and the band gained another hit with “Sour Girl”, a gorgeously written yet solemn love letter to Weiland’s first wife Janina Castaneda. The video was especially popular because starring as Weiland’s suffering love interest was Sarah Michelle Gellar, decked out in burgundy-black lip gloss and vamp femme gear. (And how about them friendly Teletubby-esque characters in it?) Around this time, I became a fan for sure. I bought No.4 and later listened to their earlier works. I had also bought a ticket to their concert in Mansfield, MA in 2008 as a part of a WBCN rock show. Sadly, I only heard about five songs before I had to dip out to catch my commuter rail train back to Boston. NOT COOL. (I always hated when shows were held at the Tweeter Center, now called Xfinity Center. It’s too damn far and random. I regularly missed the Rock the Bells festival because of that location).
In ’99, Weiland sung the chorus on Limp Bizkit‘s “Nobody Like You”, a track that featured Korn’s Jonathan Davis as well. This is the one Limp Bizkit song that if you haven’t heard already, you need to.
Post his departure from STP due to infighting, Weiland went on to front Velvet Revolver, a “supergroup” with members of Guns ‘N Roses. He still frequently battled with substance abuse and this was often the main reason he was at conflict with his new bandmates. He soon be forced to move on to The Wildabouts.
Still, he was more somber than he had been in years during his last. Ten years ago, he was a part of an ensemble tribute of “Across The Universe”, a Beatles song, at the 2005 Grammys, sharing the stage with Norah Jones, Alicia Keys and Stevie Tyler of Aerosmith amongst others. In 2013, he got married a third time to photographer Jamie Wachtel.
I was a fan of STP and Weiland for the same pool of reasons I am for most artists I admire. I connected to his self-expression. I appreciated how open he was in how he failed his first wife Janina in “Sour Girl.” I thought it was very big of him as a man to reflect on himself so publicly.
I was a Superman, but looks are deceiving. The roller coaster’s ride a lonely one. I paid a ransom note to stop it from steaming. Hey. What are you looking at? She was a teenage girl when she met me.
And I would find out that he did that quite often as a songwriter. I also simply just loved his voice. A White male rock singer with a little touch of old school soul (to his tone) is where it’s at. Similar to Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy and Aaron Lewis of Staind. I still remember when I first heard”Interstate Love Song.” Who knew alternative music could be borderline lush?
I was a bit stunned when I read he passed away. I kind of don’t even know what else to include in this obituary of mine. Except that I remain a fan and am thankful for the songs I’ve heard of his and the groups he worked with. It feels like with his death, along went grunge music.
Rest in rock, Scott. You were great.
Weiland is survived by a daughter and a son, whom he had with his second wife, Mary Forsberg.
UPDATED: Published on RollingStone.com, Forsberg wrote an open letter to Weiland’s fans about the honesty of having to watch him succumb to his drug use and how it’s affected his children.