Jerry Cantrell received the Stevie Ray Vaughan award – or as his Alice in Chains bandmate Mike Inez joked, the “Junkie of the Year” award – at Thursday night’s eighth annual MusiCares MAP Fund benefit in Los Angeles, for work helping fellow musicians through addiction recovery. Cantrell follows in the foosteps of previous honorees including Anthony Kiedis, James Hetfield, Chris Cornell, Alice Cooper and Dave Gahan. Several of his friends were on hand to perform and show their support, from Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart to ex-Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan and singer-songwriter Mark Lanegan.
“It’s been an amazing day. It’s overwhelming,” said Cantrell, who has been sober for nine years since grappling with drug addiction. “I’m as imperfect as they come. I just don’t get high today and wake up the next morning and try and do the same thing.”
For those that have been by Cantrell’s side through his rough patches, the night was equally joyous. “This is a triumphant night because things have been very dark,” Ann Wilson told Rolling Stone. “We’ve all hit different kinds of bottom and been there for each other, trying to help each other. ‘Send money,’ or, ‘We need people with cars that are not drunk to drive.’ All of those things that you can think of, we probably had it all.”
When Rolling Stone spoke with Cantrell a few weeks ago about the honor, he reflected on his late bandmates Mike Starr and Layne Staley, who both succumbed to drug overdoses. “A lot of people stand and get the fuck back up after falling,” Cantrell said. “Some people don’t get that chance. My band’s been a harsh example of that – what happens when you don’t deal with it.” Cantrell and the rest of Alice in Chains played a five-song set, including a moving rendition of “Got Me Wrong” as well as “Your Decision,” “No Excuses,” and “Would?,” to close out the night. “We really miss Layne and Mike, and we carry them with us in our hearts,” said Cantrell.
McKagan played musical director for the evening, leading his own band Loaded through a three-song set that included the Johnny Thunders cover “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory” and wrapped with a snippet of Guns N’ Roses “Patience.” He then brought out the Wilson sisters for a sterling pair of covers, of the Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers” and Elton John’s “Curtains.” The latter was intended to be a surprise for Cantrell, Ann Wilson revealed onstage, “but you walked in on sound check. So act surprised.”
Billy Idol, who was on hand because his band members Steve Stevens and Billy Morrison are old friends of Cantrell’s, rocked a trio of hits highlighted by “Rebel Yell.” Quipped Idol, “It’s a good thing we’re only doing three songs cause I can only remember three these days.”
Moby served as the DJ during dinner and helped pay tribute to Adam “DJ AM” Goldstein, who died of an overdose in 2009 and was the first DJ to perform at a MusiCares MAP Fund event that same year. The organization is launching a new partnership with a memorial fund set up in Goldstein’s name to help provide addiction recovery services. “Back in my days of being a crazy bottomed-out drunk, I tended to hang out at places like the Mars Bars in New York, just really sleazy dive bars, and Adam tended to play much fancier places – so unfortunately our paths never crossed,” Moby told Rolling Stone. “I had so much respect for him as a person, as an advocate for sobriety, as a musician and as a DJ … I’m just slightly below a glorified wedding DJ tonight, but I’m honestly completely happy to be of service in any way I can.”