This was written by Bruce Hornsby and his brother John Hornsby. Huey Lewis had previously helped produce Bruce's debut album The Way it Is, and also sang on the track "Down the Road Tonight."
This song is about someone for who life is a struggle but has rejected the approaches of a hypocritical religious evangelist who was more interested in her money than her spiritual well-being. Instead she is intent on gradually improving herself.
The title "Jacob's Ladder" refers to a dream in the Book of Genesis, in which Jacob had a dream in which he saw a ladder ascending to Heaven with angels climbing up and down it. At the top of the ladder stood God and he reiterated the promise he made to Jacob's grandfather Abraham that he will have numerous descendants who will live in the land that he has promised to them.
Huey Lewis climbed all the way to the top of the American charts with this release. It was his third and last American #1.
John Hornsby: "To us, the song is really about one persons' personal goal and on the other hand it does deal with certain media evangelists who preach 'sing along, send money, join the chosen few.'"
Bruce Hornsby recorded a version which is included on his second album, Scenes From The Southside. He regularly sings this in concerts as well.
Charles from Charlotte, NcThe first verse in Hornsby's song: "Met a fan dancer on the southside of Birmingham" refers to an actual incident that took place in Birmingham AL when Hornsby was there for the University of Virginia's appearance at a bowl game circa early 1980s.