Alice In Chains - Rooster - Meaning of the song
The title comes from Alice in Chains guitarist-songwriter Jerry Cantrell's father. "Rooster" was his nickname in Vietnam, where he fought in the war. The elder Cantrell wouldn't talk about the war, so Jerry crafted the lyrics based on what he thought where his father's feelings and experiences, told from his perspective. The song is about resilience, as the soldier get sent off to war, leaving a wife and child behind. He watches his friend die, and does his best to stay alive. They come to kill the Rooster, but he won't die.
Jerry Cantrell's father did hear the band perform this song. Jerry told the story:
"He's only seen us play once, and I played this song for him when we were in this club opening for Iggy Pop. I'll never forget it. He was standing in the back and he heard all the words and stuff. Of course, I was never in Vietnam and he won't talk about it, but when I wrote this it felt right... like these were things he might have felt or thought. And I remember when we played it he was back by the soundboard and I could see him. He was back there with his big gray Stetson and his cowboy boots - he's a total Oklahoma man - and at the end, he took his hat off and just held it in the air. And he was crying the whole time. This song means a lot to me."
The video was directed by Mark Pellington, who also did Pearl Jam's "Jeremy." The first minute is interview footage where Jerry Cantrell's father makes laconic statements about his war experience ("I watched my friends die"). In addition to band footage, Pellington re-created Vietnam scenes in stark detail, even including a torture scene. He used an actor with a prosthetic leg so he could show him walking in one scene and then with his leg blown off in another. Lead singer Layne Staley is wearing sunglasses because he showed up high.
Rooster - Lyrics
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 Here they come to snuff the rooster Yeah here come the rooster, yeah You know he ain't gonna die No, no, no, ya know he ain't gonna die Here they come to snuff the rooster Yeah here come the rooster, yeah You know he ain't gonna die No, no, no, ya 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 Here they come to snuff the rooster Yeah here come the rooster, yeah You know he ain't gonna die No, no, no ya know he ain't gonna die