To start the story about Silverhand we must start with the story of the American Government, because first, we need to explain the events that motivated him to start his Rocker career. In the late 1980's, The Four largest agencies of the States, headed by the CIA, took control of the American Government and sank the economy of the whole world, impacting the economy of the States as well, causing the collapse. They also did plenty of other shady things like trying to take control of the Panama Canal for political reasons. So they managed to pass this issue through the Congress under the excuse that they were fighting the great drug cartels of the South because they wanted to cut the influx of drugs getting into the States. Also because at times of war, its always easier to pass extreme laws, which they could use to expand their power. The thing is that this worked, and the CIA sent American troops to fight in South America against the political enemies of the CIA, while at the same time, they used the soldiers as guinea pigs to test new cyber technology on them, because at that point it was still an infant industry. Technology based megacorporations paid millions to produce a massive testing ground. One of the companies that were investing a fortune in this technology was the Japanese Conglomerate Arasaka, through the Arasaka bank, a company specialized in security and mercenary services, and in security equipment, including cyberware. Same to combat drugs, they were also tested using American troops.
The war was a disaster in all possible aspects. Because, parallel to this, the American army switched the company to buy weapons from, and although the contract with a very specific company was already signed, they pretended to open it publicly and they created some trials and one of the three finalists, that didn’t make it because the contract was already sold, was Armatech-Lucessi, the company that later would become Militech. But they didn’t win, another, much lower-quality company manufactured the rifles to take to the First Central American Conflict, so, as I said, a total disaster and the CIA lost the war. But they tried again, in 2004. In the Second Central American conflict, Militech had become established as a major corporation and was the main provider of the US Army. During this war they had the chance to develop a pistol-sized shotgun that would be the flagship of the company, the Militech SSG, also known as the Crusher. A weapon that currently is standard equipment for the Cyborg Suppression Units, the psychosquad. In this second Central American Conflict, things were a little better than the first, we can see two characters we know and love from the lore here: the solo Morgan Blackhand, and the rockerboy Johnny Silverhand, although it is not known if they met during this war or not. Again technology megacorporations, Arasaka at the head of it, paid even more money to test experimental cyberware on soldiers, and it’s thought that this is the moment when Johnny Silverhand acquired his famous silver arm, this would explain why it has an Arasaka logo on it. But he wasn’t a rockerboy back then, he was a soldier, and, as such, he did what he was told.That was until Johnny learned what was really going on.
A media star, Tesla Johanesson, published some secret recordings of the CIA with the NSA uncovering what really happened during the First Central American conflict, so people could easily guess that the same was going on in the second war. This was a great blow for the Government lurking in the shadows because they were exposed for their treacherous, shady acts. but it also caused a lot of soldiers to open their eyes and desert the war. Silverhand was among one of them. He was so impressed by the power of the Medias, he decided that he wanted to do the same, to help people open their eyes to the lies of the government. As he had some musical talent as well and great charismatic leadership, he formed a band called Samurai.
The Rise and Fall of SAMURAI
Samurai was an absolute success, everywhere the band went went, their two biggest hits, Chippin’ In and Never Fade Away were played everywhere. Samurai were on the top of their game. Sadly, nothing lasts forever and the keyboard player of Samurai, called Nancy, tired of being the punchbag of her abusive boyfriend kicked him so hard in the face that threw him off their apartment's window. 83 floors. Nancy used to be a kicker for a local boostergang, too bad the guy just discovered seconds before his death. She was convicted, 3 years, not that much. This had caused the band to split. So, once retired, Johnny decided to take some long needed time off. For once, he attempted to have a “normal” life, or so he tried.
The Girl with the Golden Cybernetic Arm
One day, he was hanging out with his girlfriend, a lovely programmer with a golden cybernetic arm, Alt Cunningham, when they were attacked by a boostergang that were too well equipped for their own good, making it quite obvious they were backed by a Giant Megacorp. A friend of Silverhand, a Media called Thompson, was there to witness the event. He came to the conclusion it was Arasaka that had kidnapped Cunningham as he was following the steps of the megacorporations for a story he wanted to uncover. He used his Trauma Team card to save Johnny and took care of him while he recovered,. Although time was of the essence, they had a beautiful programmer with a golden arm to save. Thomson explained the whole story to Silverhand, how Cunningham was the programmer behind the SoulKiller and that Arasaka took her to work for them. That’s how things work in the dark future, when you work for a megacorp you have a contract that doesn’t allow you to leave your current position and take a position in another corp, so when a company wants to attract new talent to their ranks what they do is kidnap them, because they know this talent is not allowed to go work for them. This also means that the consent of such talent is accessory.
After Thomson explained to Silverhand what exactly was going on, and what had happened to Cunningham, he decided to form a rescue plan. In order to pull the operation off he hired the best Solo of Night City, who was also his ex-girlfriend, called Rogue, and the current companion of Rogue, a nomad called Santiago Aldecaldo. They had to infiltrate into the highest secured building of Night City, so they absolutely had to get thsi right. Arasaka is known for being a security corporation. So you can take an easy guess of how hard it is to break past the security on their buildings. So Johnny began the infiltratation plan. Going guns blazing into the front door wasn’t a wise idea, so he had a crazy plan involving re-uniting his formed band Samurai, to give a concert at the very doorstep of the Arasaka Complex. A concert that would gather a huge crowd since, at this point, Samurai already split, so a reunion would bring thousands of fans out in an absolute frenzy.
During the concert performance SAMURAI performed the famed tune Chippin’ In. In which he used this song to inspire the audience of this concert to attack Arasaka, causing structural damages in the complex, (Arasaka later had to rebuild due to the catastrophic damage it caused, while they were on it, they changed the whole thing and built the Arasaka Twin Towers that 10 years later would be blown by a mini-nuke.) Johnny and his strike team infiltrated the complex, while the concert riots distracted Arasaka Security Units. Although, they were sadly too late as Cunningham had already been separated from her body, Her consciousness had been transported into an Engram. Unknowingly, Johnny picks up the lifeless body of Cunningham, and heads for the exit.
Silverhand had no idea of how the SoulKiller program operated. He was unaware that he had only needed to wait for Cunningham to return to her body. So he was basically responsible for her PHYSICAL DEATH.
After Johnny mourned the death of Alt Cunningham, he decided he needed to escape from Night City for awhile in order to lay low from the sights of Arasaka after the massive amounts of destruction that him and Samurai had brought to Arasaka's home turf. So he went to spend some time in Mexico with the nomads of the Aldecaldo family who included his new friend Santiago Aldecaldo.
Back to Business
Once back in the States, it was time for Johnny to return to the business of music, so he thought about starting a Solo career. Seeing as the keyboard of Samurai, Nanci, went to work for Network News 54 and now was a media star called Bes Isis, the bass player Henry had an accident and lost his memory, the drummer Denny had a new band called Mastermind and she signed for DMS. So, the only members of Samurai left were Silverhand and his friend Kerry Eurodyne. Kerry was also looking forward to signing for DMS but the company also wanted Silverhand as well. And they wanted him at ALL COSTS, No matter what they had to do. So, when their offer was rejected, they decided to resort to extra "legal" means, as all corporations do, and of course media corporations were not going to be any different. So first DMS attempted to kidnap Eurodyne to use him to bargain, but the solo Morgan Blackhand helped counter that plan, which costed the Corp a failed attempt.
Since that had failed, DMS then tried to blackmail Johnny. They threatened to explain to the world that he deserted the Second Central American conflict. Johnny then countered that tasteless act by signing for the competition of DMS ― Universal, in a deal that included his friend Kerry Eurodyne. Which in turn they shortly released a record called Sins of Your Brothers where he explained himself that he deserted the second Central American Conflict and the reasons why he did it. The record was a success, and it triggered a wave of sentiment towards Central American Conflict veterans. This causes DMS to cower back into the shadows for good. This deal with Universal allowed Kerry and Johnny to enjoy great success in their solo careers, and he toured with his nomad friends of the Aldecaldo family, who were his Roadies and security. Also to note, at that time Silverhand lived in the district of Pacifica. In 2077 the Combat Zone, but back then it was a posh residential area.
The Eruption of The Fourth Corporate War
Johnny Silverhand was a successful rockstar in his solo career, Everything was sailing smoothly. Life was on autopilot for the Rockerboy when suddenly, the Fourth Corporate War erupted. At the beginning it started as you typical small corporate war, two companies fighting for the remains of a third, although there was a big player involved, the Eurobank, who had an interest in getting rid of those two competing megacorps so the Eurobank pushed it, in an attempt to see how they destroyed each other. This war grew out of proportion when the competing corps hired the competing security corps Arasaka and Militech, and this is when it became a worldwide war.
At that time both security megacorps hired edgerunners for covert black operations because it was too easy to trace any team back to their mother company. A thing they wanted to avoid ―by hiring freelances that had no direct relationship with their corps. This was a lesson learned on the First Corporate War, when the strike team of Euro Business Machines was decimated ―this is what started those wars.
There were quite a list of edgerunners that were involved in the Fourth War. The ones working for Militech― Alt Cunningham, Rache Bartmoss, Rogue, Santiago, Shaitan, Morgan Blackhand, who already was a company man and worked for Militech, and, obviously, Johnny Silverhand who, at that point, would do anything to destroy Arasaka. So when Militech gathered two strike teams to infiltrate in the Arasaka Tower to destroy the SoulKiller labs and copy their offline database, which, thanks to Bartmoss’ DataKrash was the biggest database left in existence, if not the only. Silverhand said: “I’m in”.
Into the Abyss
Unfortunately, that was Silverhand's final decisions, because, in order to save Alt Cunningham's Engram, he had to face the Arasaka cyborg Adam Smasher and couldn't survive his vicious attack. Shortly after that, a mini-nuke exploded inside the Arasaka Tower.
After that, Silverhand became a legend, The Elvis, or Kurt Cobain of the Dark Future, there were rumors of people seeing him here and there. Although, if Johnny Silverhand is dead, how is it possible that we see him in Cyberpunk 2077? Johnny Silverhand is an engram in 2077 and is not a real living person. What is an engram? An engram is the digitalization of someone’s personality, extracted by the means of the SoulKiller or a similar program. The digital personality of Johnny Silverhand is trapped in the Immortality chip, and it “comes to life” the moment V inserts that chip in their socket. In case it wasn’t clear enough that he’s an engram, at some point in 2019’s demo, the leader of the Voodoo Boys Brigitte explains that Silverhand is an engram.
I believe the immortality chip is Arasaka’s SoulKiller 5.0, as this program invented by Alt Cunningham had the original purpose of making people immortal, so at one point, Arasaka thought that weaponizing it wasn’t the best of the ideas and used it to develop a biochip that would grant you immortality. This biochip was developed using the original notes of the programmer Alt Cunningham who, at that moment, in 2013, before everything happened, when she was programming the first version of the SoulKiller, was dating Silverhand which leads me to believe that he was the person she had closer to be the first test subject for her SoulKiller, and that’s how Silverhand got digitalized.
As Arasaka used this first SoulKiller and Cunningham’s notes to make the immortality chip, Arasaka also accidentally recreated Silverhand inside the chip, so in 2077, the moment he appeared for the first time, he has no idea what’s going on. The last thing he remembers is being with Alt Cunningham in 2013, he has no memory of what happened to her, or the Arasaka Riot and the later attack to the Arasaka towers 10 years after the Arasaka Riot, which would give CD Projekt Red the perfect excuse to explain the whole story arc of the SoulKiller to the players, as Silverhand has to discover it himself.