Looking back at the power of a rock ‘n’ roll singer whose life was cut short far before his time
I remember when my friend Janice told us the news that day: Shannon Hoon had died. She was a mess. I could’ve cared less.
I had been an early fan of Blind Melon on account of Hoon’s connection to Guns ‘N Roses. As the younger brother of Axl’s high school homegirl, Rose let young Shannon crash with him after he moved from Indiana to Los Angeles like the living embodiment of the first scene from the “Welcome To The Jungle” video. Only Hoon wasn’t wearing his bellbottoms ironically–he was the living embodiment of the flower child revival that spilled into the early 90s. But he also possessed the kind of hard rock singing chops that made Blind Melon this quintessential conspiracy of Laurel Canyon haze and Sunset Strip howl. Amped by his cameo on the GNR ballad “Don’t Cry (Original),” I bought that first album the day it came out, not only on the strength of Shannon’s presence but the fiery, Page-meets-Garcia guitar wizardry of Rogers Stevens as well.
Hoon was found deceased on Saturday, October 21, 1995. Blind Melon was scheduled to play a show in New Orleans at the legendary Tipitina’s, and when the band’s sound engineer went to the tour bus to awaken Hoon for soundcheck, he found him unresponsive. When the ambulance arrived, the singer was pronounced dead at the scene, at the age of 28, the victim of a cocaine overdose. At the time of his passing, I had long put Blind Melon out to pasture in my heavy listening rotation after the billionth time hearing “No Rain” on MTV, the radio or at some party.
They jumped the shark in my heart, so when the news of his death hit the campus at SUNY New Paltz that fall, I merely shrugged it off and went back to listening to Sebadoh’s Bakesale. Yet now, 25 years after this gifted performer was stolen from us by that stupid white powder, revisiting both those five short years Blind Melon in recent months has really opened my eyes to just how much ass this band kicked with Hoon at the helm. Especially Soup, which celebrated its own 25th anniversary this past August 15th and showcased a band looking to break the stigma of “No Rain” by focusing more on their roots in trying to walk through this strange middle realm between Eat A Peach and Led Zeppelin IV.
VIDEO: All I Can Say film trailer
Late last year, Oscilloscope Pictures released All I Can Say, a documentary bases on a video diary where Hoon filmed himself from 1990-95 with a Hi8 video camera, recording up until a few hours before his sudden death. Hoon meticulously documented his life, from his family to life on the road to the television. He filmed the birth of his daughter Nico Hoon, now a rising singer in her own right. He wasn’t shy about documenting his struggles with addiction either. It’s a must-watch for any Blind Melon fan but also someone who wants to witness life before America went online.
Twenty-five years after learning about Shannon Hoon’s passing that cold October day leaves me truly sad his life was cut short because of the demon cocaine. One could wonder how Blind Melon would have evolved with him as their fearless leader heading into the 21st century. The band has been active in recent years with a new singer, Travis Warren. But let’s be honest, the dude is no Hoon.
In memory of this young talent gone long before his time, please listen to our exclusive playlist of classic Blind Melon below.