THERE WAS A TIME LAST SUMMER WHEN Shannon Hoon, the troubled lead singer of the rock group Blind Melon, seemed to have found hope, if not salvation. After two years of personal turmoil marked by arrests for brawling and lewd behavior and several stints in rehab for treatment of a years-old drug habit, Hoon had settled in his hometown of Lafayette, Ind. Determined to stay clean, he passed the time gardening and cooing over his 4-month-old daughter, Nico Blue, whom he and longtime girlfriend Lisa Crouse, 26, had named after one of his favorite blossoms. “The flower is beautiful and the baby is an angel,” he told PEOPLE in July. “I’m responsible for someone now.”
But for Hoon, 28, whose keening vocals helped sell 2 million copies of his group’s debut album, Blind Melon (including the MTV “bee girl” hit, “No Rain”), temptation regained the upper hand. In New Orleans for a performance on Oct. 21, Hoon, who had been caught smoking crack three days earlier by a guard hired by Blind Melon’s managers to keep tabs on the singer, was found dead of an apparent drug overdose in the band’s tour bus.
For those who knew him, the news brought a sad sense of inevitability. “He was always on the edge,” says old friend Randy Evans, 28, a Lafayette fireman. “We always knew this day would come.” Former Crosby, Stills and Nash drummer Dallas Taylor, 47, a recovering addict turned drug counselor who treated Hoon last spring, had sounded a similar warning. “I told [Hoon’s managers] they had to take a serious stand with Shannon,” Taylor says, “or else he was going to die.”
A childhood friend of Guns N’ Roses’ Axl Rose, who also grew up in Lafayette, Hoon was a varsity wrestler and football player at McCutcheon High School. Around the time his parents, Nel and Richard, divorced, Hoon was arrested four times for rowdy behavior before leaving home in 1990 to pursue a music career. Later, Nel told Rolling Stone she had feared “he would…come back in a body bag.” Success was no panacea. “He didn’t know what to do with the stardom once he got it,” Taylor says. In Lafayette, where the singer was buried on Oct. 25, friends are still reeling. “He was our dream,” says old classmate Brent Simler, 29. “He took the path everybody dreams of.”