The Best Metal Song About Grief and Loss That You May Have Never Heard
If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
Grief is a pain that I’ve never fully managed to endure. It weighs me down so much that I avoid it with ever scrap of effort I can manage. Heck, I’m a consummate Marvel fan, never missing a movie or TV show, but I can’t bring myself to see “Thor: Love and Thunder” yet for fear of certain triggers within. (If you know, you know.)
However, there’s one song that I can’t avoid because it understands the pain, the sorrow, the longing of grief so completely that it cuts right to the core of me. I can barely hear it without tears, and it drags something from within me that I can’t quite articulate. That’s why I felt it was important to share.
Even if you don’t enjoy metal, I would encourage you to listen to “Blackbird” by Alter Bridge, the title track from the band’s second studio album, originally released in 2007. There are many, many versions of the song that I could recommend — and the studio version shouldn’t be missed — but there’s something special about this live version from Amsterdam, embedded below.
Some fast facts before we get into the reasons why it represents grief so strongly:
- Lead vocalist Myles Kennedy said: “Blackbird was inspired lyrically by a friend of mine named Mark Morse. He sold me my first guitar when I was a kid, and we stayed friends for years and years. He actually passed away right as that song was being completed so it was dedicated to him and his memory. It’s really about seeing the suffering he was going through and hoping he would find his solace soon and be free from all of that.”
- Myles also told Guitarist magazine that his friend had been fighting cancer.
- Lead guitarist Mark Tremonti shared that the song’s title came from “Blackbird” by The Beatles being the first song Myles Kennedy’s friend taught him to play, and from Myles then referring to his friend as “Blackbird.”
Already, I can relate, having lost my father to cancer in my 20s, but so much of the song represents grief of different kinds. In fact, before learning how Myles Kennedy’s friend passed away, I thought this line, in particular, hinted at suicide loss:
“The fragile can not endure/ The wrecked and jaded/ A place so impure/ The static of this cruel world/ ‘Cause some birds to fly long before they’ve seen their day.”
I’ve often found that line speaks to me in the midst of passive suicidal ideation, when I find the “static of this cruel world” to be too much to endure. But that’s not necessarily the case, here. Myles Kennedy only calls for his friend to find peace from his suffering. In the chorus, he sings:
“Let the wind carry you home/ Blackbird fly away/ May you never be broken again / Beyond the suffering you’ve known/ I hope you find your way/ May you never be broken again.”
“Ascend, may you find no resistance/ Know that you’ve made such a difference/ And all you leave behind/ Will live till the end/ The cycle of suffering goes on/ But the memories of you stay strong/ Someday I too will fly and find you again.”
Since my father’s death, I’ve struggled with allowing myself to remember the happy times. But more than that, I’ve struggled with the idea of an afterlife; it’s a concept that just stopped making sense to me, like I was unable to reconcile the absence of his being with the idea that he could be elsewhere, out of reach. It’s unfathomable, and it remains unfathomable to me over 11 years later. Of course, I would love to be able to believe strongly in the afterlife, but I just find the topic too painful to approach head-on. So, when I hear these lyrics in Myles Kennedy’s crisp and soaring vocals, it’s almost like I can believe, just for a second, that he’s still around.
I’m not the only one who feels this way. Sharing what the song means to him and to fans, Myles Kennedy said:
“As much as I love playing it, it can be hard emotionally sometimes because of the subject matter. It’s not always an easy song to play, but there’s something we get from seeing the crowd and their reaction to the song. It means something to them. That’s the payoff. It’s awesome. You see people out there really getting into it or showing you their “Blackbird” tattoo. They have the lyrics tattooed on their bodies or the emblem tattooed on their arm. It’s pretty overwhelming. They’ll make it known during that song.”
As I write this, I’m finding that even as a professional writer, I’m struggling to articulate just how powerful this song is — its F# minor key, Myles Kennedy’s incredible four-octave vocal range that somehow manages to retain its passion and intensity through every note, and a dueling guitar solo that won Guitarist magazine’s March 2011 poll for the greatest guitar solo of all time, beating even established classics from Slash (with whom Myles Kennedy also collaborates), Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix. I hope that you find it as powerful as I do. When I keep my grief locked up tight, this song is one of the few things that can pierce through to the heart of me.
Image Credit: Sven Mandel / CC-BY-SA-4.0 (Wikimedia Commons)