After they decided to pay tribute to late singer Layne Staley, the remaining members of Alice in Chains didn’t think music icon Elton John would ever agree to play on their album dedicated to their fallen friend. They thought wrong — Elton listened to “Black Gives Way to Blue” one time and signed on to play piano on the track.

“He’s a really warm person,” Alice in Chains co-founder Jerry Cantrell tells the Associated Press of Elton. “He got up and gave us a couple of hugs, and said, `Well Jerry, I just wanted to tell you that I think it’s a beautiful song. … I really dig the sentiment of what it’s about and who it’s for and I just want to tell you that I’m going to play on the song.'”

The song is the title track on the band’s first studio album in 14 years, and dedicated to Layne, who died of a drug overdose in 2002.

“I didn’t think that would happen. He’s a pretty busy guy doing his own thing,” Cantrell added of Elton. “We got a call from our studio manager saying that Elton wanted to talk to us. We jumped in the car, left our lunches on the table, and cruised back to the studio and walked into the studio where he was recording.”

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