DMC went through a crippling depression before he wrote this song. In 1993, Run-DMC released the successful album Down With The King
, but over the next few years DMC fell further into a funk even though his career was doing well. He was an alcoholic, and his relationship with his musical partner Run was strained.
In 1996, he was in the back of a cab when the driver put on music for him: the New York hip-hop station Hot 97. That was the last thing DMC wanted to hear, so he told him to change the station. The driver put on a Lite FM station, and a Sarah McLachlan song was playing (McDaniels recalls it being "Angel
," but that song had not been released yet). "Something in that song said to me, 'D, I know you're going through a lot, but it's good to be alive,'" he said.
For the next year, DMC listened to nothing but Sarah McLachlan records. His depression got so bad that on a 1997 tour of Japan, he thought about suicide, even considering how he would do it. That year, his manager dragged him to Clive Davis' Grammy party so he could meet McLachlan. When he approached her, McLachlan hit a B-boy stance and started rhyming his songs at him ("It's tricky to rock a rhyme...").
"Ms. McLachlan, every day I listen to your music," he told her. "I don't leave my house without it, I travel with it.'" She replied, "Thank you for telling me that Darryl, because that's what music is supposed to do."
DMC looked to self-help books for solutions to his depression. He read Deepak Chopra, but that made it worse: He figured he had accomplished everything he had to, so he might as well end his life. Then he realized that while the Run-DMC story is well told, his personal tale was not, to he decided to tell it. In 2000 he called his mother to get some data: his birth weight, time of birth, and hospital where he was born. His father called back with some startling news: they adopted him when he was a month old.
"There was a missing piece to my identity," DMC said. "That piece filled my void." Realizing a lot of people have probably gone through something like this, he decided to make a record. Years later, he contacted McLachlan and they recorded "Just Like Me" at her home studio in Vancouver. (Quotes are from DMC's talk at The Moth and from his interview with Q radio.)