Jeremy
Pearl Jam
Ten, 1991
Lyrics by Eddie Vedder

About alienation, loneliness, rebellion, suicide and violence, this song was inspired by the tragic story of Jeremy Wade Delle. "On January 8, 1991, Jeremy Wade Delle, a student at Richardson High School in the Dallas suburbs, showed up late for his second-period English class. The troubled boy was sent to the administrative office for a late-admittance pass, but he returned with a .357 Magnum. He spoke just one chilling sentence - "Miss, I got what I really went for" - and then, as his classmates watched in horror, put the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger."

Discussing Jeremy Vedder has explained, "...I saw a small paragraph in the paper about a kid named, his first name was Jeremy and he took, he shot himself in the front of his English class...I wrote, I mean I literally wrote the song that night, I think...I wonder why that happened? I wonder why he did it..." Vedder goes on to reveal another source of inspiration for this song, "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....So it's a bit about this kid named Jeremy and it's also a bit about a kid named Brian that I knew and I don't know...I think of Jeremy when I sing it."

In a 1993 Rockline Interview Vedder responded to suggestions that the song and video for Jeremy might promote youth violence, "Some kid did this. I didn't make that up and that's a fact. It came from a small paragraph in a paper which means you kill yourself and you make a big old sacrifice and try to get your revenge. That all you're gonna end up with is a paragraph in a newspaper...The world goes on and you're gone. The best revenge is to live on and prove yourself. Be stronger then those people. And then you can come back..."

Marky Mark’s 1991 song Wildside which samples from Lou Reeds 1972 classic, Walk on the Wild Side, exposes the dangers and deadly consequences of youth risk behaviors including drug use and gun violence. “…A body was found in the alley but never claimed Full of bullet holes but none to blame Ron became another victim of homicide because he chose to walk on the wildside…” Another section of the lyrics are inspired by actual events, the infamous 1990 Boston Murder. ( see reference below )

While Marky Mark’s song may sample musically from Walk on the Wild Side, the lyrics of these songs express contrasting views of rebellion, sexuality and “life in the fast lane”. Lou Reed’s song serves as a tribute to the excessive, unconventional, and outrageous lifestyle of the friends of Andy Warhol who frequented his infamous club the factory during the 1960’s. "Holly came from Miami, FLA. Hitch-hiked her way across the USA. Plucked her eyebrows on the way. Shaved her legs and then he was a she. She says, hey babe take a walk on the wild side..." The idea and inspiration for the song can also be attributed to the 1956 novel, A Walk On The Wild Side by Nelson Algren.

Another song that deals with the issues of emotional health, identity, and youth violence is the Boomtown Rat's song, I Don't like Mondays. While touring the United States in 1979 singer and songwriter Bob Geldof heard a news report about 16 year-old Brenda Spencer who shot at students outside an elementary school, killing two adults and injuring several children. Shaken by this act of senseless violence Geldof wrote the lyrics, "...And school's out early and soon we'll be learning And the lesson today is how to die..."

Sadly, the title for the song is taken directly from a statement made by Brenda Spencer shortly after the shooting.  Asked why she had done this, Spencer cooly replied, "I Don't Like Mondays".

An even older song dealing with death and violence is Bob Dylan’s Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door which was written for the 1973 soundtrack of Sam Peckinpah’s film, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Bob Dylan actually has a role in this controversial film which is considered by some to be one of the greatest modern Westerns ever made. This haunting song expresses the internal conflict and sense of despair experienced by a gunfighter turned sheriff who has grown weary of death and killing but reluctantly agrees to hunt down his former friend. “…Mama, put my guns in the ground I can't shoot them anymore. That long black cloud is comin' down I feel like I'm knockin' on heaven's door…”

 

Over the years this song has been covered and popularized by many artists and has been adopted as an anthem for anti-war and anti-violence causes and organizations. “With the consent of Bob Dylan, Dunblane musician Ted Christopher wrote a new verse for Knockin' on Heaven's Door in memory of the Dunblane schoolchildren and teacher killed in the Dunblane massacre. The recording of the revised version of the song, which included brothers and sisters of the victims singing chorus and Mark Knopfler on guitar, was released on December 9, 1996 in the UK, and reached number 1. The proceeds went to charities for children.”

Source(s):

Pearl Jam Interview:  Echoes of Exposure with David Sadoff  December, 1991 Houston, Texas, KLOL FM.

Black, Johnny. "The Greatest Songs Ever! Jeremy" Blender, September 2002.

Wikipedia - “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”


 

Music and Lyric Resources:

Pearl Jam Official Web Site

five horizons: a pearl jam fanzine

The Sky I Scrape: A Pearl Jam Fansite

Lou Reed Official Web Site

Boomtown Rats Official Web Site

Bob Geldof Official Web Site

Ted Christopher Official Web Site
 

Referenced and Related Works:
 

Edwin Arlington Robinson's, "Richard Corey"

Dylan Thomas's, "Do Not Go Gentle"

Albert Camus', "The Stranger"

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's, "A Psalm of Life"

T.S. Eliot's, "The Hollow Men"

Life Quotes

Rebel Without A Cause

Andy Warhol Quotes

Taxi Driver

Cool Hand Luke

1990 Boston Murder – NY Times Articles

Wildside / Walk on the Wildside

Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

It Was Monday

Student's visual interpretation of  "I Don't Like Mondays"

Student's visual interpretation of  "I Don't Like Mondays"

Student's visual interpretation of  "Jeremy"

Jeremy Wade Delle  (external page)

The Boomtown Rats - "I Don't Like Mondays"  (external page)

Slang City’s Walk on the Wild Side (external page )

The Andy Warhol Museum ( external page )

The Dunblane Massacre ( external page )

YouTube – “Jeremy” ( external page )

YouTube - “Wildside” ( external page )

YouTube – “Walk On the Wild Side” ( external page )

YouTube – “I Don’t Like Mondays” ( external page )

YouTube – “Knockin On Heaven’s Door” ( external page )

 

 

 

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