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Andrew Wood 3/1990

March 1990, Seattle, Washington, USA --- Rock Band Mother Love Bone --- Image by © Karen Mason Blair/CORBIS

March 19, 1990 – Andrew Wood was born in Columbus, Mississippi on January 8th 1966. Raised on Bainbridge Island, Washington, he was the youngest of three children; brothers Kevin and Brian. Wood and his brothers were exposed to various music by their parents, who also supported their children when they were learning how to play instruments. Wood became a fan of acts such as Elton John, Queen, Aerosmith, and Kiss.

In 1980, at the age of 14, Wood formed Malfunkshun with his brother Kevin, recording their first demo tape in April 1980. Drummer Regan Hagar joined soon after with the band, playing shows in Seattle, Washington.[2] Each member adopted onstage alter egos, with Andrew becoming Landrew the Love Child, Kevin becoming Kevinstein, and Hagar becoming Thundarr. Unlike most grunge groups in Seattle, Malfunkshun were influenced by glam rock with Wood described as “a hippie, glammed-out rock & roll god, equal parts Marc Bolan and Jim Morrison,” with his look and vocal style influenced by frontmen such as Freddie Mercury, Paul Stanley, and Marc Bolan. By 1985, Wood had started to rely heavily on drugs to help with his “rock star” persona, and entered rehab the same year.

Malfunkshun recorded a number of demos in 1986, two of which, “With Yo’ Heart (Not Yo’ Hands)” and “Stars-n-You”, were included on the “legendary” Deep Six compilation album released by C/Z Records the same year. The band continued to play shows in Seattle, opening for Soundgarden, The U-Men, and Skin Yard. However, in 1988, Malfunkshun disbanded.

Although the band never released an album and were also turned down by Sub Pop for “not [being] grunge enough,”Malfunkshun, along with Green River, are often cited as “founding fathers” of the Seattle’s grunge movement.

Wood and Hagar began playing with Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament of Green River, which disbanded in 1988, performing, on occasion, as the cover band Lords of the Wasteland. Former Green River guitarist Bruce Fairweather was added to the lineup, while former 10 Minute Warning and Skin Yard drummer Greg Gilmore replaced Hagar, forming Mother Love Bone the same year.

The band soon signed a deal with PolyGram, and, through their own subsidiary label Stardog, issued a six-song EP, Shine, in 1989. John Book, of Allmusic, stated that the EP “contributed to the buzz about the Seattle music scene.” The band spent the rest of the year touring, including shows supporting The Dogs D’Amour, and recording their debut album. With high expectations of the album, Wood checked himself into rehab due to his struggle with heroin addiction, hoping to get clean for the release of album, staying there for the remainder of the year.

In 1990, the band continued to play shows in Seattle, waiting for the release of their album, Apple.
On March 16, 1990, Wood was found in a comatose state by his girlfriend, having overdosed on heroin. Wood was taken to Harborview Hospital and placed on life support. Despite being responsive, Wood had suffered a hemorrhage aneurysm, losing all brain function. On March 19 physicians suggested that Wood be removed from life support.

The album Apple was released posthumously later in the year, receiving positive reviews. David Browne of The New York Times wrote that “Apple may be one of the first great hard-rock records of the 90s” and that “Wood could have been the first of the big-league Seattle rock stars.”

In the year following his death, Wood’s former roommate Chris Cornell of Soundgarden wrote two songs, “Reach Down” and “Say Hello 2 Heaven”, in tribute to his late friend. Cornell then approached Gossard and Ament about releasing the songs as singles before collaborating on an album. Adding drummer Matt Cameron, future Pearl Jam lead guitarist Mike McCready, and future Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder, they formed Temple of the Dog in 1990 to pay tribute to Wood, releasing one self-titled album in 1991.

Fellow Seattle band Alice in Chains dedicated their debut album Facelift to Wood. The song “Would?”, included in their second album Dirt, was written about Wood and other singers who had died as a result of drugs. In the liner notes of Alice in Chains’ Music Bank box set collection, Jerry Cantrell said of the song:
“I was thinking a lot about Andrew Wood at the time. We always had a great time when we did hang out, much like Chris Cornell and I do. There was never really a serious moment or conversation, it was all fun. Andy was a hilarious guy, full of life and it was really sad to lose him. But I always hate people who judge the decisions others make. So it was also directed towards people who pass judgments.”    

In 1992, PolyGram reissued both Shine and Apple as the compilation album Mother Love Bone, while the song “Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns” was included on the soundtrack to the film Singles. The same year, Los Angeles band Faster Pussycat wrote the song “Mr. Lovedog”, from the album Whipped!, in tribute to Wood. Bradley Torreano of Allmusic stated that the song “offered a sad elegy to another charismatic figure in the metal world.”

Seattle rockers War Babies, which briefly featured Mother Love Bone’s Jeff Ament on bass, dedicated the song “Blue Tomorrow” off their eponymous 1992 debut album to Wood.

In 1993, Seattle post-grunge band Candlebox released their self-titled debut featuring the single “Far Behind,” which was written in memory of Wood.

Wood’s former band mate Stone Gossard compiled Malfunkshun recordings From 1986-87 and released the studio album Return to Olympus through his Loosegroove Records label in 1995.

In 2005, director Scot Barbour completed production on the documentary Malfunkshun: The Andrew Wood Story. The film documents Wood’s music career as well as his family background. The film premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival. In October of the same year, the film was screened at the FAIF Film Festival in Hollywood, California. The film was released in 2011 on DVD as part of a 2CD+DVD set entitled “Malfunkshun: The Andrew Wood Story” including the Return to Olympus album, a bonus CD including many interviews and demos, and the movie on the DVD disc.

He died of a heroin overdose coupled with a cerebral hemorrhage on  March 19, 1990 at age 24.

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