Eddie Vedder has a voice that could stir honey into tea from a thousand paces. His intoxicating drawl helped launch Pearl Jam from the Seattle grunge scene into the upper stratosphere of mainstream rock back in the early 1990s. ‘Jeremy’, along with ‘Black, ‘Alive’ and ‘Even Flow’ formed the quintet of songs that catapulted them into the public consciousness and helped create the definitive sound of an era.
Rising from the murk of grunge into the gaudy glow of arena rock shows was a transition that Eddie steadied with unwavering sincerity and passionate frontman performances. These enigmatic stage displays helped capture the intimacy of some Seattle dive bar regardless of whether they were playing to thousands upon thousands of people. As far as frontmen go, Vedder was the complete package.
His unique, gruff, baritone vocals have always been instantly recognisable and exclusively exhibited a haunting reverence to the Illinois-born rockers work throughout his career. In short, he is undoubtedly one of the most original and gifted singers in alternative music history.
‘Jeremy’ was their debut hit with a very reverent backstory. In January 1991, Jeremy Wade Delle shot himself in front of his classmates; Eddie Vedder would later come across this harrowing story and immortalise it in song, imparting a message about the fragility of mental health and the impacts of bullying as he did so.
The song was released as their third single from their debut album Ten. The record was a hit mammoth hit that the band would understandably struggle to better. ‘Jeremy’ helped to single the band out as performers with a lot of depth and heart behind the skilled musicianship.
The lyrics of the song illuminate the issues that led to the fateful incident in chilling detail, sending a clear message about the dangers of bullying to many young fans, as Vedder howls in a haunting scathe: “Clearly I remember / Pickin’ on the boy / Seemed a harmless little fuck.”
The song’s nettlesome and deeply poignant subject matter seems a tailored fit for Eddie’s impassioned tones. Behind Vedder’s wolf-like howl is an emotional vulnerability encapsulated by the vibrato wavering of his sustained notes. This unique combination of raw power and fragile honing elevates his singing from mere vocals to poetic performance.
In this isolated take of ‘Jeremy’, the full cacophony of his skills are channelled into one spellbinding tale, in which there is something almost akin to a Muezzin call spreading over a hushing Cairo, revealing the deep spiritual undertones to Vedder’s work, both in terms of lyrical content and the performance thereof.
This is about as awe-inspiring as a vocal take can get, and you can listen for yourself below.