“Jeremy” is a song by the American rock band Pearl Jam, with lyrics written by vocalist Eddie Vedder and music written by bassist Jeff Ament. “Jeremy” was released in 1992 as the third single from Pearl Jam’s debut album Ten (1991). The song was inspired by a newspaper article Vedder read about Jeremy Wade Delle, a high school student who shot himself in front of his English class on January 8, 1991. It reached the number five spot on both the Mainstream and Modern Rock Billboard charts. It did not originally chart on the regular Billboard Hot 100 singles chart since it was not released as a commercial single in the US at the time, but a re-release in July 1995 brought it up to number 79.
The song gained popularity for its music video, directed by Mark Pellington and released in 1992, which received heavy rotation by MTV and became a hit. The original music video for “Jeremy” was directed and produced by Chris Cuffaro. Epic Records and MTV later rejected the music video and released the version directed by Pellington instead. In 1993, the “Jeremy” video was awarded four MTV Video Music Awards, including Best Video of the Year.
“Jeremy” single was released commercially to international markets in 1992, the commercial single was not released in the United States until June 27, 1995, and was only available as a more expensive import version beforehand. “Jeremy” was released as a single in 1992 with the previously unreleased B-sides “Footsteps” and “Yellow Ledbetter”, both of which can also be found on the compilation album, Lost Dogs (2003), the former as an alternate version, and the latter of which can also be found on the band’s greatest hits compilation, rearviewmirror (Greatest Hits 1991–2003). “Jeremy” became the most successful song from Ten on the American rock charts. The song peaked at number five on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks and Billboard Modern Rock Tracks charts. The “Jeremy” single has been certified gold by the RIAA. At the 1993 Grammy Awards, “Jeremy” received nominations for Best Rock Song and Best Hard Rock Performance.
Outside the United States, the single was released commercially in Australia, Austria, Brazil, Germany, Indonesia, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. In Canada, the song reached the top 40 on the Canadian Singles Chart. “Jeremy” reached the UK Top 20. It peaked at number 93 in Germany, reached the top 40 in New Zealand, and was a top ten success in Ireland.
Chris True of Allmusic said that “Jeremy” “is where Pearl Jam mania galvanized and propelled the band past the ‘Seattle sound’ and into rock royalty.” He described it as a “classic buildup tune” and proclaimed it as “arguably Pearl Jam’s most earnest work and one of their most successful singles.” Stephen M. Deusner of Pitchfork Media said, “‘Jeremy’ is the most pat Freudian psychodrama on an album full of them.”
By the time Cuffaro finished his music video, Epic had warmed up to the idea of releasing “Jeremy” as a single. Music video director Mark Pellington was brought in to handle the project. Pellington said that he “wasn’t a huge fan of the band, but the lyrics intrigued me—I spoke to Eddie, and I really got connected to his passion.” Pellington and Pearl Jam convened in Kings Cross, London, England in June 1992 to film a new version of the “Jeremy” music video.
Working with veteran editor Bruce Ashley, Pellington’s high-budget video incorporated rapid-fire editing and juxtaposition of sound, still images, graphics and text elements with live action sequences to create a collage effect. The classroom scenes were filmed at Bayonne High School in New Jersey. The video also featured many close-ups of Vedder performing the song, with the other members of Pearl Jam shown only briefly. Some of the stock imagery was similar to the original video, but when it came to the band Pellington focused on Vedder. Vedder thus serves as the video’s narrator. Ament said, “It was mostly Mark and Ed’s vision. In fact, I think it would have been a better video if the rest of the band wasn’t in it. I know some of us were having a hard time with the movie-type video that Mark made because our two previous videos were made live.” Jeremy was played by 12-year-old Trevor Wilson, in his only acting role. Wilson died in 2016 at age 36 in a drowning accident in Puerto Rico.
The video premiered on August 1, 1992, and quickly found its way into heavy rotation on MTV. Michele Romero of Entertainment Weekly described the music video as “an Afterschool Special from hell.” She stated that “when Eddie Vedder yowls the lyric ‘Jeremy spoke in class today,’ a chill frosts your cranium to the point of queasy enjoyment.” The success of the “Jeremy” video helped catapult Pearl Jam to fame. Pellington stated, “I think that video tapped into something that has always been around and will always be around. You’re always going to have peer pressure, you’re always going to have adolescent rage, you’re always going to have dysfunctional families.” The video won four MTV Video Music Awards in 1993, including Best Video of the Year, Best Group Video, Best Metal/Hard Rock Video, and Best Direction. Trevor Wilson appeared with Pearl Jam onstage when they won ‘Best Video Of The Year.’ Vedder introduced him to the crowd: “This is Trevor. He lives.”