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Jeremy (Pearl Jam)

"Daddy didn't give attention
To the fact that mommy didn't care
King Jeremy the wicked
Ruled his world
Jeremy spoke in class today
Jeremy spoke in class today"

The Song

"Jeremy" is a song by the American rock band Pearl Jam. Written by bassist Jeff Ament and vocalist Eddie Vedder, the song was inspired by a newspaper article Vedder read about a kid who killed himself in front of his classmates. The lyrics are in fact based on two different true stories. The song takes its main inspiration from a newspaper article about a 15-year-old boy named Jeremy Wade Delle, born February 10, 1975, who shot himself in front of his English class at Richardson High School on the morning of January 8, 1991 at about 9:45 am. Delle was described by schoolmates as "real quiet" and known for "acting sad." After coming in to class late that morning, Delle returned with a 357 Magnum revolver, walked to the front of the classroom, announced "Miss, I got what I really went for", put the barrel of the firearm in his mouth, and pulled the trigger before his teacher or classmates could react. 
The other story that the song is based on involved a student that Vedder knew from his junior high school in San Diego, California. The boy, whose name was Brian, didn't take his life but ended up shooting up an oceanography room.
"Jeremy" was released in 1992 and it reached the number five spot on both the Mainstream and Modern Rock Billboard charts.

The Video

The song especially gained notoriety for its music video (directed by Mark Pellington and released in 1992), which was put into heavy rotation by MTV and became a hit. In 1993, the "Jeremy" video was awarded four MTV Video Music Awards, including Best Video of the Year. 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. Actor Trevor Wilson portrayed Jeremy. Wilson filmed his classroom scenes as Jeremy 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. The video premiered on August 1, 1992. 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."
In Pellington's video, Jeremy is shown being taunted by classmates at school, running through a forest, and screaming at his parents at a dinner table. Jeremy is the only character that actually moves throughout the video. The other characters in Jeremy's life are in stationary tableau. Shots of words such as "problem", "peer", "harmless", "bored", and "child" frequently appear onscreen. Also, the phrase Genesis 3:6 appears, which references the creation of sin, specifically Eve eating from the tree of knowledge and giving some of the fruit to Adam. As the song becomes more dense and frenetic, Jeremy's behavior becomes increasingly agitated. Strobe lighting adds to the anxious atmosphere. Jeremy is shown standing, arms raised in a V (as described in the lyrics at the beginning of the song), in front of a wall of billowing flames. Jeremy is later shown staring at the camera while wrapped in a US flag, surrounded by fire.
The final scene of the video shows Jeremy striding into class, tossing a crumpled up late slip to the teacher and standing before his classmates. He reaches down and draws back his arm as he takes a gun out of his pocket. The gun only appears onscreen in the uncut version of the video. The edited video cuts to an extreme close-up of Jeremy's face as he puts the barrel of the gun in his mouth, closes his eyes, and pulls the trigger. After a flash of light the screen turns black. The next shot is a pan across the classroom, showing Jeremy's blood-spattered classmates, all completely still, recoiling in horror.


Pearl Jam -

MTV restrictions on violent imagery prevented Pellington from showing Jeremy putting the gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger at the climax of the video. Ironically, the ambiguous close-up of Jeremy at the end of the edited video, combined with the defensive posture of Jeremy's classmates and the large amount of blood, led many viewers to believe that the video ended with Jeremy shooting his classmates, not himself. 
In 1996, a shooting occurred at Frontier Junior High School in Moses Lake, Washington that left three dead and a fourth injured. The legal defense team for the shooter, Barry Loukaitis, stated that he was influenced by the music video. 
After the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, the video was banned for a time. Since then, MTV and VH1 have rarely aired the video, and mention of it has been omitted in retro-documentaries such as I Love the '90s. It is still available on the internet, on websites such as YouTube. It can also occasionally be seen playing at Hard Rock Cafe locations.
The video was included in MuchMusic's list of the 12 most controversial videos. The reason was because of the topic of suicide, and recent school shootings.

The Facts

It was Tuesday 28th September 2004 and it all happened in a matter of seconds... A student aged 15 entered his classroom, shot three of his schoolmates and wounded five. Everybody said that the boy was "shy and quiet". This tragedy, which took place in the Argentine city of Carmen de Patagones, shocked even other countries such as Spain and Italy and it was compared to the Columbine massacre which had happened in the United States in 1999 and in which 25 people had lost their lives.  
In Argentina it reminded many people of a similar case that had happened in August 2000 when a teenager aged 19 killed one of his classmates and wounded another. The reason that triggered off his fury was that his peers used to tease him in a cruel way by calling him "Pantriste". 

My Comment

Something very strange happens to me every time I watch Jeremy. It still makes my blood curdle as the first time I saw it. The song is superb, Eddie Vedder is just gorgeous and his voice, profound and powerful...
The line I particularly like is "We unleashed the lion", which is -I guess- like saying that society creates its own monsters and its own victims... Jeremy is undoubtedly the product of uncaring parents and teachers as well as bullies at school. 
It also reminds me of Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of The Catcher in the Rye, when he thinks about James Castle, a boy he knew at Elkton Hills School, who jumped out of a window to his death while being tormented by other boys. Holden was deeply shocked by the violent death of James, who committed suicide in a turtleneck he had borrowed from Holden.
What triggers off an episode of violence at school? I think that parents often worry about their kids' buddies and they don't pay attention to the shy "harmless ones" who don't have friends at school... It is precisely the misfits and the rejects who in general cause unexpected tragedies in classrooms...