Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music and musicians from the 60’s to today. Enjoy the trip!
When sitting down to write a song, the composer has a unique opportunity in front of them. The lyric sheet provides an open canvas for the artist to write about anything they could possibly dream up. It could be abstract, it could be fiction…and sometimes it could be an actual person.
“Rooster” is a song by the American rock band Alice in Chains, featured on their second studio album, Dirt (1992), and released as the fourth single from the album on February 22, 1993.
Dirt by Alice in Chains is known today as one of the most introspective records to come out of the grunge era. Centered around drug addiction, this record shows the band wrestling with their demons as they descend further and further down the narcotic slide into Hell. However, halfway through we hear torture of a different kind on “Rooster.”
Instead of focusing on drug-fueled excess, guitarist Jerry Cantrell composed this song after having talks with his father about his time in Vietnam. Nicknamed the Rooster, Cantrell’s father’s gruesome ordeals in the service are put at the forefront of this tune, as Layne Staley sings about the horrors of war. When the Rooster is not fending off bullets and disease from mosquitos, he’s watching his fellow soldiers around him dying.
However, this song is definitely not a song of defeat. After each verse, the Rooster stands tall as Staley affirms that “he ain’t gonna die.” Cantrell’s guitars also drench this song in a melancholy ambience, as if you are right there as the Rooster works his way through the war-infested jungle. Though he may come out on the other side, the unspeakable things the Rooster had to endure can be felt through every note Alice in Chains plays.
Alice in Chains: Dirt, Released September 29th 1992