After Writing Weezer's "Say It Ain't So," Rivers Cuomo Learned His Dad Wasn't an Alcoholic

The whole thing was a misunderstanding

Photo: Tom Pandi

BY Alex HudsonPublished Mar 25, 2024

Weezer's 1994 hit "Say It Ain't So" is a harrowing anthem about a child whose father figures are alcoholics — but frontman Rivers Cuomo, who wrote the song about his own childhood experiences, has revealed that the whole thing was a misunderstanding and that he has since learned that neither his father nor stepdad were actually alcoholics.

Speaking with the Los Angeles Times about the 30th anniversary of 1994's Blue Album, Cuomo explained that the song was inspired by finding his stepdad Stephen's beer in the fridge and fearing that alcoholism would lead Stephen to leave the family, just as it had his biological dad years earlier. (Hence the lyrics, "This bottle of Stephen's / Awakens ancient feelings / Like father, stepfather / The son is drowning in the flood.")

Once the song became a hit, however, his dad got in touch. "I hadn't spoken to him in years," Cuomo recalled. "I mean, I hardly spoke to him at all growing up. He only had a fax machine at the time, and out of the blue I got this fax from him: 'Weezer, give me a call — we need to talk.' So I got in touch and explained where I was coming from in the song."

The songwriter continued, "I'm kind of mortified that a lot of 'Say It Ain't So' — as powerful as it is and as true as it is — it's based on a misunderstanding. The root of it is this photograph I have of my dad and my mom where he's wearing a [sleeveless undershirt] and smoking a cigar and holding a Heineken. He looks so intimidating. My brother and I grew up looking at this photo, and somehow we got the idea in our head that he was an alcoholic and a violent guy and that's why he left us."

Cuomo's mom confirmed that his dad wasn't an alcoholic, but rather a "Zen Buddhist" type who didn't smoke or drink at all.

"Years later, I was talking to my mom about it and she said, 'He wasn't an alcoholic. He didn't even drink or smoke — he was like a Zen Buddhist guy. We were just goofing around in that picture. Those were just props,'" Cuomo explained.

Revisit "Say It Ain't So" below, and catch Weezer play it in person when they tour the Blue Album's 30th anniversary this summer.

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