Alice in Chains – “Heaven Beside You” Lyrics Meaning

Photo of author
Written By Brendan Briggs

Brendan is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer. In 2022, he released his first album "Dive" under the name "Arctotherium".

“Heaven Beside You” is about the unfortunate deterioration of a romantic relationship. The lyrics focus on how affection between both parties can continue even as the relationship dies. In addition, this song manages to touch on the idea that sometimes, even when we know what we’re doing wrong, we feel powerless to stop it.

The lyrics for “Heaven Beside You” were written by Jerry Cantrell after his devastating breakup with Courtney Clarke due to his infidelity. His rock and roll lifestyle got in the way of a stable, faithful relationship – a fact that he freely admitted. Nonetheless, he experienced the breakup as a loss and used this song to deal with the pain.

In this article, we’ll perform an analysis of these melancholy lyrics to discover their intended meaning. We’ll also take a look at the story behind the song and its human themes that make it accessible to anyone. Without further ado, let’s get started!

“Heaven Beside You” Lyrics Meaning

The first verse (and the remainder of the song) is directed at the other party in a romantic relationship rather than the narrator. This song is one half of a devastating conversation between lovers, which is exactly what Jerry Cantrell intended. In the liner notes of Alice in Chains’ box set collection, Music Bank, Cantrell described the song as a way to “express things” he “could never express” to the one he loved.

With that in mind, the first line is quite depressing. Cantrell encourages the song’s recipient to “be what you want to be,” and “see what you came to see.” He’s making no effort to mask himself or change her reaction to the situation.

As for him, he’s personally been what she wants to be, but he “doesn’t like” what he sees. In other words, he’s made a sincere attempt at being the kind of man she desires, but feels unable to sustain that performance. This parallels Cantrell’s infidelity. In his words, “You can’t tell an oak tree to be a pine.”

The chorus explores how both parties in a failing relationship still feel affection for their other half. It is easy to see “heaven beside you” and “hell within” during these situations because there is a tendency to remember the good times. You may “think you have it still,” but as later lyrics will show, this may not mean what you think it does.

In the second half of the chorus, Cantrell acknowledges the “problems” in his companion’s life. However, he cites his own “jaded” nature and “faded” sense of emotion as reasons for his low reactivity. He can tell she wants more from him, but he’s totally clueless about how to give it.

So, he resigns himself to encouraging her as she walks away. He tells her, “Go out and seek your truth.” I don’t think this is sarcastic – he sincerely wishes her the best. If one of them has to be “down and blue,” he’d rather it be him. Due to his jadedness, he feels more equipped to deal with the pain.

The second chorus is just like the first, but “think you have it still” becomes “wish you had it still.” Heaven has definitely left; the relationship is over.

The last new section of lyrics is the third and final chorus, which has a few big differences. First of all, “wish you had it still” becomes “know you have it still.” This probably means that Cantrell’s ex has rediscovered a form of heaven without him.

Secondly, it is now his ex who is called “jaded” and “faded.” This is, in my opinion, the most tragic part of the song. Due to the pain he has caused her, Cantrell is now recognizing that she will become emotionally scarred like him. Again, he sees this terrible thing while feeling powerless to stop it.

In summary, “Heaven Beside You” is a selfless acknowledgment of the narrator’s own selfishness. The parting ways described in the song is portrayed as inevitable, yet the pain is still very impactful. As tough as they may be, we all experience situations like this, which may explain the song’s appeal.

The Story Behind “Heaven Beside You”

As previously mentioned, this song is a direct reaction by Jerry Cantrell to his breakup with Courtney Clarke. The two had been an item for approximately seven years before they went their separate ways, which obviously caused Cantrell a great deal of heartbreak. Cantrell was both apologetic and oddly accepting when he considered the failure of the romance.

For example, in an interview for Rolling Stone, he blamed his own infidelity for the relationship’s failure. However, he also seemed to chalk it up to the “different logic” women use compared to men, which seems more deterministic.

Nonetheless, he took the breakup hard and used it as inspiration for the song. Although it was born in pain, it produced a great deal of success. “Heaven Beside You” peaked at a position of #3 on the US Mainstream Rock chart and did well internationally, too. Critically and commercially, it can only be considered a success.

The next time you play this moody tune, let these pieces of music history make it even more special for you!