Blind Melon Singer Shannon Hoon Died 20 Years Ago Today: Rewinding the News
Some rock anniversaries are cause for celebration; others are moments to pause and consider how quickly time can pass, and how distant a once-familiar era of music can become.
Others are just plain depressing. Today, we mark the latter, as it's been 20 years since Blind Melon singer Shannon Hoon died of a heart attack brought on by a cocaine overdose.
On Oct. 21, 1995, Hoon -- who had just attempted an unsuccessful rehab stint around the time of the birth of his daughter -- was found dead in the band's tour bus in New Orleans. Blind Melon's second album Soup had dropped two months earlier, and Hoon turned 28 just a month before, making him a few weeks shy of joining rock's infamous 27 club.
On the 20th anniversary of Hoon's death, we're looking back at what major U.S. newspapers and magazines said about Hoon at the time of his passing. Aside from the straightforward news reports, it's fascinating to see how the media responded to the loss. Many looped it into what seemed like a new rash of rock star deaths (Kurt Cobain had died just a year earlier), while others reported the drug-induced loss somewhat flippantly.
For example, here's Dallas Morning News' rather judgmental take on the situation from a 1995 article: "As lead singer for the rock group Blind Melon, 28-year-old Shannon Hoon had it all -- the looks, the talent and, it appeared, the smarts to keep it going. A drug overdose proved otherwise."
In a similar vein, the Orlando Sentinel quoted a local teenager who didn't seem particularly perturbed by the news.
"Another musical loss was Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, who died in October at age 28 of a drug overdose one night while on tour," a 1995 article from the Orlando Sentinel reads. "But not everyone is sympathetic for him. 'His death shows us what drugs can do,' said George Beaton, a sophomore at Seminole High."
Whether Beaton was a cynical Gen X-er with better things to weep about or a product of the D.A.R.E. generation is up for debate, but one thing is certain -- Hoon's death didn't affect media coverage the same way Cobain's did. While many outlets opted not to cover Hoon's overdose, nearly every major newspaper and magazines wrote about Cobain's suicide multiple times.
That's not too surprising. While "No Rain" was a major alt-rock hit, Blind Melon wasn't as ubiquitous as Nirvana. Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote about Hoon in late 1995, using him as the peg for an article about "semi-stars" who "died prematurely" -- as opposed to outright legends like the late Nirvana frontman.
A 1995 article in the Los Angeles Times also made the Cobain comparison in an article questioning if record labels were somewhat culpable for junkie artists' deaths.
"Should major record companies refuse to work with musicians who resist efforts to break them of drug addiction? That question has taken on an urgency in the music industry in the wake of the heroin overdose death in New Orleans on Oct. 21 of Blind Melon singer Shannon Hoon," L.A. Times' article reads. "Although Hoon's death hasn't reverberated culturally the way that Kurt Cobain's heroin-related suicide did in 1994, a growing number of business people in the rock world see it as the last straw and are demanding drastic measures." (As you probably guessed, those drastic measures never came to pass.)
In the slightly-less-depressing category, a few articles in the wake of Hoon's death reported on various artists who paid him homage in concert.
Per an L.A. Times article from Oct. 30, 1995, reviewing Neil Young's Bridge School benefit concert: "[Chrissie] Hynde… dedicated a stinging version of Young's 'Needle and the Damage Done' to Shannon Hoon, the Blind Melon lead singer who was found dead in New Orleans on Oct. 21. Blind Melon had been scheduled for Saturday's bill."
Similarly, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Boston Globe both note that Candlebox dedicated songs to Hoon on their tour. From the former publication:
"You," a hit from Candlebox's three million-selling debut album, was a big crowd pleaser, as was "Far Behind," another smash hit from that 1993 album, which earned a dedication at Sunday's performance. "This song is for Mr. Shannon Hoon," said lead singer Kevin Martin, referring to the recent death of the Blind Melon lead singer.
Revisit Blind Melon's "Change" below. Lyrics from that song are on Hoon's grave.