Jeremy (1991) – Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam performing Jeremy live acoustic unplugged

Jeremy is the 4th song to feature here from Pearl Jam’s legendary 1991 record – Ten. The lyrics were written by vocalist Eddie Vedder and music written by bassist Jeff Ament. Jeremy was released as the third single from Pearl Jam’s debut album. The song’s music was written before the band went out on tour in support of Alice in Chains in February 1991. I never fully understood the background of this song until researching it for this article. I had listened to it countless times and I had a good idea that something bad had gone down with Jeremy and the boy Vedder had bullied in school. Obviously the two events had a huge impact on Vedder’s psyche.

Ament stated: ‘We knew it was a good song, but it was tough getting it to feel right—for the chorus to sit back and the outro to push over the top. The tune went from practically not making it on the record to being one of the best takes. On Jeremy I always heard this other melody in the choruses and the end, and it never sounded good on guitar or bass. So, we brought in a cello player which inspired a background vocal…Most of the time if something doesn’t work right away, I just say fuck it—but this was an instance when perseverance paid off.

Clearly I remember
Pickin’ on the boy
Seemed a harmless little fuck
But we unleashed the lion
Gnashed his teeth and bit the recess lady’s breast

How could I forget
And he hit me with a surprise left
My jaw left hurting
Dropped wide open
Just like the day
Oh, like the day I heard

Jeremy is based on two different true stories which some readers might find disturbing. The song takes its main inspiration from a newspaper article about a 15-year-old boy named Jeremy Wade Delle from Richardson, Texas, who shot himself in front of his teacher and his second-period English class of 30 students on the morning of January 8, 1991. In a 2009 interview, Vedder said that he felt “the need to take that small article and make something of it—to give that action, to give it reaction, to give it more importance….The world goes on and you’re gone. The best revenge is to live on and prove yourself. Be stronger than those people. And then you can come back.”

The second story the song is based on, involved a student that Vedder knew from his junior high school in San Diego, California, who committed a school shooting. He elaborated further in a 1991 interview: “I actually knew somebody in junior high school, in San Diego, California, that did the same thing, just about, didn’t take his life but ended up shooting up an oceanography room. I remember being in the halls and hearing it and I had actually had altercations with this kid in the past. I was kind of a rebellious fifth-grader and I think we got in fights and stuff. So it’s a bit about this kid named Jeremy and it’s also a bit about a kid named Brian that I knew.

Reference:
1. Jeremy (song) – WIkipedia

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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