“Rooster” by Alice In Chains. My favorite song from one of my favorite bands. Written by Jerry Cantrell Jr (guitarist) for his father, a Vietnam vet, and what he believed was his experience in Vietnam. Jerry “Rooster” Cantrell Sr. was a member of the 101st Airborne Division which fought in battles such as Hamburger Hill. Although he had the nickname “Rooster”, because as a kid his hair stood up on his head like a chicken, the song really has a double meaning. The song is also about the machine gunmen in the VietCong . Rooster refers to the M60 bullets hitting the ground and making the shape of a rooster’s tail as they bounce up. VietCong called the men who carried this gun “Chicken Men”. Now as for “Rooster” the man, it chronicles a him leaving his family behind for the war, facing death then returning to an unwelcoming public and to top it off he has malaria.
In the first verse, “They found a way to kill me yet… seems every path leads me to no where”, Rooster (Cantrell) is pinned down by Vietcong and is thinking about his family, but there seems to be a calm about him. He knows he’s going to be ok. The rooster (Vietcong) has him cornered but he is then saved by his fellow sharpshooter company man. “The bullet screams to me from somewhere… They’ve come to snuff the rooster”. His calm came from knowing that he was never alone out there. “You know we aint gonna die…”
Its well documented that the Vietnam war was an unpopular war. Vets came home to disrespect and ridicule. The line “They spit on me in my homeland” illustrates this. These men didn’t choose to be there. They were forced to serve their country and be subjected to things ill never understand. Then making it home from all that violence to die from Malaria. At home there was nobody to save them like there was in Vietnam… only God. “Got my pills against mosquito death, my buddy’s breathing his dying breath. Oh God please won’t you help me make it thru?”. Jerry Cantrell Sr has only heard the song once but when he did he cried. Layne Staley’s powerful voice drives this song home almost as if he experienced it himself.
Below is the Unplugged version of the song.