“Rooster”

“Rooster”

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Story Behind the Song

Jerry Cantrell
“Rooster”

Written by Jerry Cantrell
Recorded by Alice in Chains

The song in a nutshell is me trying to imagine my father’s experience in Vietnam and to learn how it affected him — he never talked about it.

I was seven or eight when my parents were getting divorced. My dad had carried a lot back home from the war and it was translating into the family. There were some fairly difficult times early on. He moved to Oklahoma and my brother went with him. I remained in Seattle where my sister and I were raised by my mother and grandmother.

As a kid I kind of held that against him — I had a little case of hate. As I got older, in my twenties, we had made contact although I didn’t see him a lot. I put part of me, as a man, in his shoes. Would I have done better? I doubt if I would have come back at all. After thinking about it more, I gained respect for him and appreciation for how he felt.

I was in between houses and staying at my manager, Susan Silver, and her husband’s house. I stayed in a guest room overlooking Puget Sound. It was beautiful. I stayed up all night looking out and thinking and got a kind of epiphany about my father and the words to this song poured out. “Rooster” is the nickname my dad’s grandfather gave him when he was a kid. His hair stood up like a rooster’s and he was told he was a cocky strutting kid. First thing in the morning, I played the song for Susan and she loved it.

Writing this song was a big part of healing for both my father and me. I gave him the lyrics and played the song for him and told him that I was trying to get into his head. I asked if I got close. He responded, “Son, you got too close!” We’re the best of friends today. That was a big turning point.

We’re partners in a ranch that he runs in southeast Oklahoma. It’s where we shot the video for the song. It was directed by a great filmmaker, Mark Pallington, who created a film called Fathers’ Days about his father, a former Colts player, and his battle with Alzheimer’s. Both Mark and I were dealing with acceptance so he understood this song. He had the sensitivity to interview my dad for an hour on tape. Mark was very respectful. It was a chilling interview in which my dad described what he went through. There is a clip from it at the beginning of the music video. My dad always comes to our shows now when we’re in the area. He gets attention because of the video. This song means a lot to me; I tend to write about things that are important to me.

A lot of military who fought in the first Middle East war and in Iraq and Afghanistan react strongly to this song. This song translates heavily. I get a lot of feedback from people telling me how “Rooster” was helpful to them and how much they relate to it.

“Rooster”

Ain’t found a way to kill me yet

Eyes burn with stinging sweat

Seems every path leads me to nowhere

Wife and kids, household pet

Army green was no safe bet

The bullets scream to me from somewhere.

Yeah they come to snuff the rooster

Yeah here come the rooster, yeah

You know he ain’t gonna die

No, no, no, you know he ain’t gonna die.

Here they come to snuff the rooster

Ah yeah, yeah

Yeah, here come the rooster, yeah

You know he ain’t gonna die

No, no, no, you know he ain’t gonna die.

Yeah they come to snuff the rooster

Yeah here come the rooster, yeah

You know he ain’t gonna die

No, no, no, you know he ain’t gonna die.

Walkin’ tall machine gun man

They spit on me in my home land.

Gloria sent me pictures of my boy

Got my pills ’gainst mosquito death

My buddy’s breathin’ his dyin’ breath.

Oh god please won’t you help me make it through?

Yeah they come to snuff the rooster, ah yeah

Yeah here come the rooster, yeah

You know he ain’t gonna die

No, no, you know he ain’t gonna die.

Written by Jerry Cantrell. © 1992 Buttnugget Publishing (ASCAP). International Copyright Secured. All Rights Reserved. Photo credit Rocky Schenck

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