Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” was one of the legendary band’s biggest hits, accompanied by a searing music video depicting school violence. The video and the song catapulted Pearl Jam into the next level of rock stardom, spearheading the grunge rock movement of the early 90s along with Nirvana and Soundgarden.
The motivation for Jeremy points back to a true, disturbing story which took place in 1991…
The incident occurred in January of 1991, when Jeremy Delle arrived at Richardson High School in Richardson, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, with a gun. Delle then shot himself in front of his fellow students due to incessant bullying from his classmates.
According to an article in The Dallas Morning News, “Because he had missed class, the teacher in his second-period English class told Jeremy to get an admittance slip from the school office. Instead, he returned with the gun, police said. He walked directly to the front of the classroom. ‘Miss, I got what I really went for,’ he said, then placed the barrel in his mouth and fired.”
Vedder read the article and was inspired to tell the story of Jeremy Delle in song. He wrote “Jeremy” and the song was an instant hit. The video was met with a great deal of controversy.
Aside from being released almost a decade before the Columbine massacre, the “Jeremy” video was controversial because of its depiction of classroom violence. Jeremy is seen seething with anger, and the final shots of the video show students frozen in time, their shirts spattered with blood. The message was misconstrued. As Vedder pointed out, the blood on the students’ shirts was Jeremy’s blood from his suicide in front of the class.
Here is the video:
The confusion is partly because of editing by the makers of the video, who took out an image of Jeremy walking in, drawing a gun, and putting it in his mouth. Regardless of the misconstrued meaning, Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder’s message was to speak out against bullying, not glorify school violence.