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Scott Weiland’s Rock and Roll Legacy and Life of Addiction

by Jeffrey Juergens ❘  

Uncertainty Surrounds Causes of Rockstar’s Death

On Thursday, December 3rd, Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver died from a heart attack. He was 48 years old. Many people have reflected on the singer’s life over the past week, including his successes and his inner battles.

It’s impossible to ignore Scott Weiland’s history of drug use and whether it had a hand in his death. It’s a typical trope — a rockstar gets hooked on drugs, and in the wake of unbridled success, takes things too far.

Weiland battled with an addiction to several drugs, especially heroin, and subsequently kicked his habits. He wrote in his memoir, Not Dead & Not For Sale, about the first time he experimented with opiates on an early STP tour.

The opiate took me to where I’d always dreamed of going,” Weiland wrote. “I can’t name the place, but I can say that I was undisturbed and unafraid, a free-floating man in a space without demons and doubts.

Scott Weiland on stagePrior to his death, rumors had been floating around about Weiland returning to drugs, and cocaine was found on the bus he died on. Authorities haven’t yet released the frontman’s official cause of death. He was on tour with his new band the Wildabouts when he was found. Earlier this year, Wildabouts guitarist Jeremy Brown died from a drug overdose.

Over the years, Weiland’s drug abuse often put a wedge between him and people in his life, but he continued to tour and create music.

There have been criticisms that his later performances had become lackluster due to apparent intoxication. In the past, Scott Weiland has forgotten lyrics and fallen off stage mid-performance. But many others over the past years have made a point of highlighting the singer’s good shows.

A few years ago, Stone Temple Pilots had a comeback, touring and delighting fans across the country.

Stephen Elliott of Spin Magazine extolled Weiland’s incredible stage presence while on tour with STP.

Weiland is magnetic, moving across the stage with these strange steps like a snake, like he’s possessed, as unself-conscious a performer as I’ve ever seen,” Elliott wrote in 2010. “He’s not a great dancer, but he is in total control.

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Scott Weiland’s Last Interview

In his last interview, just two days before his death, Weiland discussed where things stood in his life and reflected on the past. Weiland’s demeanor is humble and patient. He seems outwardly contented with life. He gently talks about how much David Bowie influenced him, albums he’s proud of, and even expresses an openness to having another run with Velvet Revolver.

The interview is somewhat surreal given his healthy appearance. If the singer still struggled with drugs, he was adept at hiding it. It’s also interesting that Weiland entertained the possibility of working with Velvet Revolver again. Weiland slipped back into drug abuse during his time with Velvet Revolver, which was a factor in the band’s breakup. He has even said in the past that his time with Velvet Revolver “came out of necessity, not artistic purpose.”

Peers Mourn and Reflect on Weiland’s Career

Many are still trying to comprehend Weiland’s passing. Aside from speculations of Scott Weiland’s underlying cause of death, an outpouring of condolences and fond memories have also emerged over the last several days. The grief and heartfelt goodbyes speak to Weiland’s impact on multiple generations.

Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins penned a thoughtful eulogy in honor of Weiland, attributing the singer’s impact on a generation and beyond to the legendary Kurt Cobain.

“May I also offer my humble condolences to his family, friends, and band mates; who have, and are, suffering this great loss. For when anyone as vaunted leaves far too soon, we mourn all that might have been. As any fan, I find myself reflecting on what I do have in my own treasure chest: in scarce moments where Scott and I spoke as contemporaries or competitors, and got to know each as people other past the footlights and shadows we were so busy casting to the world.”

- Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins frontman

The remaining members of Stone Temple Pilots also offered their own touching farewell message on the band’s Facebook page.

Dear Scott,Let us start by saying thank you for sharing your life with us. Together we crafted a legacy of music…

Posted by Stone Temple Pilots on Friday, December 4, 2015

‘Don’t Glorify This Tragedy’

However, it was the mother of Weiland’s children, Mary Forsberg Weiland, who offered one of the most poignant and honest thoughts on the singer’s death in an open letter published by Rolling Stone.

Scott and Mary in April 2006
Scott and Mary in April 2006

The letter had a powerful message: don’t look at this tragedy with an undeserving sense of admiration and accept that drugs don’t have to go hand in hand with a successful rock career.

On December 7th, on the behalf of her teenage children, Ms. Weiland wrote:

The outpouring of condolences and prayers offered to our children, Noah and Lucy, has been overwhelming, appreciated and even comforting. But the truth is, like so many other kids, they lost their father years ago. What they truly lost on December 3rd was hope.

- Mary Forsberg Weiland, Rolling Stone

Mary Weiland’s concerns are a call to learn from her ex-husband’s life rather than accept him as a natural casualty of rock and roll. She doesn’t want anyone to forget Weiland’s “amazing talent, presence or his ability,” but she also doesn’t want anyone to forget that glorifying his excesses makes it impossible to prevent future tragedies.

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