Hoon spent 1994 and 1995 in and out of rehab, and the birth of his daughter Nico motivated him to get clean once and for all. But the recording and release of Blind Melon's sophomore album, Soup -- and a grueling tour schedule -- threw him off the wagon. On October 21, 1995, Hoon was found dead on the group's tour bus. The group put together an album of unreleased material, Nico, and disbanded in 1999. (Blind Melon re-formed with a new singer in 2007. Nico Hoon, who was cruelly denied the chance to know her father, has occasionally joined the group in concert.)
Devil on One Shoulder is presented as an oral history, with Hoon's bandmates, friends, girlfriend, and mother sharing their memories of the late singer. (Prato compiled the book from over fifty interviews.) As with any great music biography, there are plenty of stories from the road - most memorably, after one show in Detroit, the members of Blind Melon witnessed a depressed young woman throw herself from the top floor of a nearby hotel. Aside from an introduction (in which Prato describes meeting Hoon while waiting in line for one of his shows) the author steps back and lets the people who knew Hoon best tell his story.
I'm not sure I liked that format better than a standard biography, but I was moved by the interviewees' recollections of this musical era and this promising, memorable talent. After finishing the book I felt compelled to check out some of Blind Melon's lesser-known music, and my impressions so far have been mixed. But if Prato's goal was to give the reader a new appreciation for this overlooked group, he has succeeded.