Alive

Album: Ten (1991)
Charted: 16 107
  • The music for this song was written by guitarist Stone Gossard before the band had a lead singer. It was part of a three-song instrumental demo they made at London Bridge Studio in Seattle while looking for a vocalist and drummer.

    Jack Irons, a friend of Gossard's who played drums in The Red Hot Chili Peppers, was approached about joining the band, but he had another commitment. He thought Eddie Vedder might be a good fit as the singer, so he gave Eddie the demo tape. At home in San Diego, Vedder wrote lyrics and added his vocals to the song using his four-track recorder. The band liked what they heard and made him lead singer.
  • The instrumental demo of this song was titled "Dollar Short." Vedder's lyrics went in a direction the band didn't expect, but they loved what they heard and quickly agreed that he should be their lead singer - only one other guy had been auditioned. Reflecting on how everything came together so quickly, the band credited timing and fate for Vedder's arrival. Eddie said that it took him 12 hours to write and record the songs for the demo, and he could have easily blown it off.
  • Vedder's lyrics are about a boy who finds out his father is actually his stepfather, and that his real father is dead. He later revealed that the song was "a work of fiction based on reality," and the chorus of "I'm still alive" was what he considered his curse, as he struggled to deal with the strained relationship with his stepfather and the fact that his real father was dead.

    In an episode of VH1's Storytellers, Vedder explained that the interpretation of the song had changed, as fans would react to the chorus by jumping around and celebrating - they heard "I'm still alive" as a positive thing, an affirmation of life. Said Vedder: "When they changed the meaning of those words, they lifted the curse."
  • Eddie's mother divorced his father when he was one year old, and he was raised by his stepfather without knowing it; he even met his true father without even realizing they were related. Vedder's real father, Edward Severson III, died of multiple sclerosis in 1981, before Eddie could see him again. This is the autobiographical part of the song that shows up in the opening lyrics.

    Eddie didn't get along with his stepfather, and took out his lyrical wrath on him in the song "Better Man." Until he dropped out of high school, Eddie was known as Eddie Mueller, but he took his mother's maiden name after finding out the truth about his real father. When Vedder became a father, he said that he would do everything he could to break the cycle of family dysfunction.
  • The other two songs on the demo Vedder worked on follow the story in this song. After Vedder put lyrics to them, the songs became "Once," where the boy goes nuts and starts killing people, and "Footsteps," where the boy is sentenced to death and blames his mother. Vedder called this the "Momma-Son" trilogy.
  • The black-and-white video for this song was made on the cheap - less than $20,000. It was filmed at a Pearl Jam concert at the club RKCNDY in Seattle on August 3, 1991. The band was still broke, and they thought blowing a lot of money on a video would be stupid, since burning through cash early on could get you dropped by a record label if you didn't sell.

    Even then, Pearl Jam had a disdain for traditional, lip-synched videos, so for this one they went against convention and used the live audio from the concert in the clip, capturing the energy of the show, which included crowd surfing, stage diving, and Vedder hanging from a lighting rig.
  • When the band tried to record this song, they couldn't capture the feel of the demo, which they laid down a few months earlier, so they used that demo in the final mix, adding Vedder's vocal and an additional guitar solo by Mike McCready at the end of the song.
  • In the US, this was the first song Pearl Jam released as a single.
  • The drummer in the video is Matt Chamberlain. He took over after Pearl Jam's first album, but left soon after to join the Saturday Night Live band.
  • Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready based his guitar solo on the one Ace Frehley played on the Kiss song "She." In an issue of Guitar Player magazine, Frehley said that his solo in "She" came from Robby Krieger's guitar work on The Doors' "Five To One." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Ken - LaSalle, Canada
  • In 2000, the band was playing the Roskilde Festival in Denmark when nine fans were crushed to death in the mosh pit. They were about to play this, but stopped the show when they saw people being pulled out of the crowd in real bad shape. Some of the 40,000 people in the crowd began singing "I'm still alive," unaware that the event had turned tragic. Pearl Jam left the stage and the next band, The Cure, refused to go on out of respect for the dead.
  • The song spent a record-breaking 61 weeks on Billboard's Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart in 1998-99 without ever entering the Hot 100.
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 44

  • Kimberly from Landing, Njthe story of hope. as she s still alive to face the truth. reality starts within our soul. look around. Reality. chapters of heartbreak cont. only the realize what we we learned as child are the emotions played again and again across our minds until learned. Still Alive, God Bless. we all need to keep the spirit to pursue the misunderstandings. LIVE,LOVE, LEARN then move to your PASSION.
  • Dan from Cumb, Mdwhere in this song does it talk about him playing guitar at 13
  • Zach from Tallahassee, FlTEN is so overlayed by the radio, their best songs are right here in order:

    1. In Hiding
    2. Do The Evolution
    3. Love Boat Captain
    4. Sleight Of Hand
    5. Thumbing My Way
    6. Present Tense
    7. Parting Ways
    8. In My Tree
    9. All Those Yesterdays
    10. You Are
  • Miles from West Linn, Or@ Live Freak You got it EXACTLY right.
  • Mari from Austin, TxI just read all the comments and with all that is interpeted and said, it's a great song. Obviously it's gotten a lot of people out of some really deep holes in life.

    I'm glad that this song is not a burden to Eddie any longer, but a song of redemption.

    I first heard this song in 1991, I was 11, it was just an awesome song to me then. It was totally different from what was playing on the radio at that time. I was fan from the start!

    But,Not until I heard the song 5 years later did it awaken me from a depression I long denied.
    I realized that "I was still alive"
    I felt the sun on my face once again and never looked back..

    it's a great song.

  • Charlie from Las Vegas, Nvalso another Pearl Jam song with which i can relate to all the major aspects (see comments for 'Jeremy'). i've never met my natural father, yet i kinda have an idea as to what he looks like since my mom keeps telling me that im a somewhat feminized, miniature version of him. As if thats not enough, he and my mom (supposedly) split BEFORE i was even born (i say "supposedly" because my step-dad and i look so much alike that anyone who DOESN'T know us would think we were blood relatives, no joke).

    that said, i have no clue as to the whereabouts of my natural father, or whether or not he's still alive. all i know about him is that he wasn't actually married to my mom when i was born and that he left her because he wanted a son and not a daughter. also, i've never had to deal with the sexual abuse part, for obvious reasons.

    p.s. if there's a Chuck Shelton out there who's retired US Navy who just happens to be reading this: I'M CHARLYN BACTAD, A.K.A. THE DAUGHTER WHOM YOU COULD'VE RAISED AS YOUR OWN, BUT WAS TOO MUCH OF A PUNK TO DO SO. AND DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT COMING NEAR ME, ELSE I'M LIABLE TO KICK YOU WHERE IT HURTS!!!!!
  • Darren from Aberdeenshire, United KingdomI agree with Marcus - the surfer dude.
    I hum this tune (along with others) when i get to do anything xtreme - it works!!! if you think the song is depressing, you should walk in my shoes - i found out on XMAS day when I was 13yr old my father wasnt mine(just found out on here what the song was about!!!) i had drug issues, and lost a lot of good friends through them and here i am 15 years later....ALIVE!!!!! - but typically, of some songs - never paid much to the verses - - its far from depressing....its actually a feel good kinda obscure song.
    a timeless rock classic.
  • Jared from Perth, Australiaone of the greatest songs ever!
  • Paul from Columbia, ScKiller song, but for some reason the end of the solo reminds me of Black Sabbath's War Pig's solo. They sound really similar.
  • Jim from Liverpool, United Kingdomoh man the first time i heard this was on rock band 2. I didnt like it at first. those damn hammer-on ( i played the plastic guitar) they rule! but the first time i played it was on drums and of course it blew me away. i took so much time to pass it everybody started crying cause it got to them. enough on my foolish juvenille video games, this song kills! every part is true. it's like *Bob Dylan* but with more power chords. hail Eddie Vedder!!
  • Matt from Houston, TxMan, this is the perfect song to listen to when you're depressed.Back when I was a teenager I always felt like I wanted to kill myself but, in some freaky way this song makes me feel I am not alone.
  • Marc from Bruno, Mnmarcus, you took the words out of my mouth, couldnt have said it better.. besides i dont know how to surf. i love this song and the band. rediculous good..
  • Marcus from Shark Island, AustraliaI like humming this song in my head when surfing very large waves and waiting while in a stormy sea. In a way, i use depression to my advantage (ie thinking about a relationship break up etc) to "go" a big wave and not worry about death.
    at the end of the wave i like to think, yeah man, im still alive... i did it. i have this written on my board in permanent marker to remind me.
    The lyrics mean so much to different people.
    its funny, sometimes i will be out in the sea alone, hundreds of people looking from the cliffs, and they dont realise im singing this to myself out loud in the surf.
  • Jack from Queens, NyEven though I'm not a big Pearl Jam fan and haven't read or seen that many interviews that might reveal Vedder's insight into the song, my interpretation is that the song is about the singer's experience with women, and that the first verse is about the mother and the second verse is about the girl who took the singer's virginity (not the mother). I don't think that the woman in the 2nd verse is the mother. The singer evokes a similar emtional response to what happened with the mother in the first verse and to the sexual encounter in the 2nd verse, hence the chorus. As said before, "I'm still alive" can be both a proclamation and a lament, and I think Vedder uses the phrase very cleverly to mean both at the same time. It's a burden to keep living a life in emotional tumult, yet he also relishes the physical sensation of being alive.
  • Derek from Mulvane, Ksthis song rocks ♫♫♫♫
  • Pete from Melbourne, AustraliaProbably the greatest "wall of sound" produced by the Jammers to date - top 10 on my list of all time greatest rock tracks

    Pete, Melbourne Australia
  • Tony from Toledo, OhWhen I would hear this on FM, I would sing along with the refrain OOOH, OHH, OOH, I'M STILL ALIVE! And I would thank God that I did not die from cancer from being a chemist before I became disabled, I did not commit suicide (although I tried twice in 1986 out of lonliness for a girl) and I did not end up in the nuthouse! Some of these Pearl Jam songs really hit home to me at a very personal level!
  • Eric from Maastricht, NetherlandsOedipus complex featurss in the Doors song The End
    Vedder is a great Doors fan
  • Paul from Cincinnati, OhSeems like a pointlessly bizarre topic to base a trilogy on...but the songwriter types have incredibly wild imaginations so I guess you can't blame them. It's odd that he would call killing prostitutes a way of coping with a difficult life...since when is killing other people a coping mechanism..?
  • Nick from Pepperell, Masome people on this were saying that this song has a type of Oedipus complex in the lyrics im just curious how
  • Adam from Delmar, NyIt was the summer going into my senior year of high school. My friends and I spent the weekend at a summerhouse in Cape Cod. As the sun began to set and the stars started shinning we decided to go to the beach and watch the beautiful, powerful sky. After driving to the beach we just sat in the car and in deep silence just starred into the great heavens.

    As I sat there, I felt clueless what to think about and felt stupid to say anything to ruin this somewhat simple, yet controlling ritual. Then I started to think about all the problems that I have faced during this past year. A close friend of mine had died after a short battle with cancer, I felt that my parents were giving up on me, I had ongoing anxiety that there was no way I could ever get out of Bethlehem. Among other problems I was facing I felt at that moment, life was real sh*tty.

    I am sure most people can relate to feeling this way sometime in there life.

    I gazed up into space deeply looking for an answer, for reassurance to know that everything would work out.

    As someone turned on the stereo, a great vintage Pearl Jam song struck me from the album ?Ten? written in 1991. Eddie Vedder sang ?I?m Still Alive.? Such simple lyrics, yet so personally powerful for me. It was a heavy time in my life and the words gave me rescue and hope. It reminded me that even during hard times I am still here and I will overcome these problems. This moment has turned me loose into the world of music. It proved to me the power behind music. How it not only can be used a source of entertainment, but an actual oar to save you when your in the deep end of a shark ridden ocean.

    I like most about this song is the chorus, how it repeats ?I?m Still Alive.? Eddie Vedder?s voice has such passion and conviction it. It makes it seem somewhat like an anthem to yell out during troubled times. I also love how the song starts out slow, and then suddenly makes your adrenaline and heart beat faster and faster. Especially the end during the guitar solo, my heart bounces to every note hit by Mike McCready on his wailing electric guitar.

    I have heard many versions of Pearl Jam playing this song. I enjoy the live version the most during the concert State College May 3rd, 2003. Even though live versions can?t compare quality wise to studio albums, the energy I felt from this show due to Vedder and the crowd gives me the goose pumps whenever I put it on.

    After I found out the real lyrics of this song, It somewhat began to effect my view on it. The song is really how Eddie Vedder finds out that his stepfather isn?t his real father and that his real father is actually dead. The song describes the confrontation after his Mom told him the truth. ?Is something wrong, she said Well of course there is Youre still alive, she said Oh, and do I deserve to be Is that the question.? This song is actually describing how Vedder doesn?t want to be alive, since his real Father is dead.

    Ha would you believe that .

    This misinterpertation is common though and Vedder even agreed he is happy to see people rejoice in the chorus, rather then see it as he wrote it.

    Even with this miss meaning, I still look at this song the same way I do as in the car on the beach of Cape Cod. When I hit a bump in the roads of life, I sit back on my recliner, close my doors and blast this song on my stereo. It reminds me that even though I?m even though I?m down, I?m still here and will eventually rise above it all.
  • Catherine from Chapel Hill, NcVedder said, on the Pearl Jam episode of storytellers, that the song Alive came with a curse. He said that it was about a kid who never knew his real father and had always thought his stepdad was his real father, then when he was a teenager his mom told him the truth. The line "i'm still alive" was the curse. That he was still alive when he didn't want to be, and when his real father was not.

    But he said that over the years that they have been preforming this song, he's been able to look out on to the crowd of people screaming "i'm still alive" and they were happy about it. He said that to them, being alive was something to be thankful for, and that's when the curse was lifted.
  • Karin from Batesville, ArThe song was written after Eddie found out that his step father wasn't his real dad. Eddie's mother told him that his real father had passed away. Eddie was upset over the fact that he never met his real dad, and also the fact he was dead. The title for Alive came from Eddie discovering that his father was dead, but he was still Alive.
  • Chris from Scranton, PaLegend has it that Vedder actually thought up the lyrics to "Alive" while surfing shortly after hearing the band's demo tape. Pretty kooky, huh?
  • Taylor from Seattle, Wathis song is about him not "simalarities" to his life it is his life. but people like everyone else keep trying to pick at it and pick at it that they make things up. He finally opened up to a writer, Kim Neely, and told the truth. Ironically he doesn't like talking about his songs in order to preserve the truth to it but for some reason he opened up, like it meant alot to him...thus being his life.
  • Kevin from Ny, NyThe fact that his dad wasn't his real dad was pretty clear, but I had no idea about the incestuous thing. Thats a little disturbing. Its still a good song though; and one of the best and most complete albums ever.
  • Kalin from Los Angeles, CaOf course you think that, Billy.
  • Billy from Boston, MaAlive is one of Pearl Jam's best songs along with Jeremy. Ten is also their best CD. Edddie Veddar has an awesome voice. Whoever the guitarists are, their great, too.
  • Elliot from St. Louis, MoThx for telling me the Oedipus guy's name.
  • Jelle from Gent, BelgiumStrange that no one mentioned what Eliot refers to: the Oedipus-complex (Freud)

    cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oedipus_complex
  • Elliot from St. Louis, MoOh my, I didn't ever think the lyrics would mean what they do. That is like that one Greek myth though, you know? I can't remember the name, but it is where the prophet says that the son will kill his father and steal his wife, so they abandon the boy, and he gets raised then does some stuff, oh, I don't remember, some else can tell the story. Pearl Jam rocks!
  • Jena from Bonner Springs, KsYikes! I love Songfacts, but in this case, ignorance was bliss. I have always loved this song (and considered it one of my favorites) for it's musical qualities and Vedder's rich voice. Now I'm just horrified.
  • William from Bellefonte, PaLike it has been said, Vedder's mother didn't tell him who his real father was untill he was a teenager. It turns out that he knew his real dad, as he was a family friend. He had previously blown his biological father off at a get-together and soon after his biological father died. This song is semi-auotobiograpical and is part of the "Mamasan Trilogy".
  • Aditya from Mumbai, IndiaIts a shame that people use the word 'stolen' & 'copied' when they talk about the solo in ALIVE. This would mean that Punk bands have 'copied' and 'stolen' their three chord simplicity, rock bands from the 70's trio(Sabbath, Zeppelin & purple), guitarists from hendrix, clapton, etc..........
    Well definately these people haven't heard the word 'INSPIRED'.
    There is no denying that the first phrasing(part) of the solo is more or less identical to that of 'Five to one' but the feel of the whole solo is completely different & eventually takes the song to a level scarcely reached by some in rock history. It is one of the best structred solo ever!!!

  • Justin Mcshea from Columbia, MoSee if anyone can notice this theory I have? Listen to Five to One from The Doors and this song right after it. Pay attention to the guitar solos in both songs and see if you think that both solos sound exactly the same. Again, just an observation but respond if anyone has the chance to do this. Peace but still love Pearl Jam
  • Arman from College Station, TxIt is the masaman trilogy, not the mamasan trilogy. Although it probably means "mama son".
  • Drew from Kansas City, MoThe solo was NOT stolen, it was BASED upon previous solos. "Five to One" by the Doors, "She" by Kiss and "Alive" by Pearl Jam are three great guitar solos with similar phrasing; but it is obvious that they are different and all great in their own unique ways.
  • Charlotte from Seattle, Wayeah this song had a lot more meaning to me until I read this "mamasan" stuff
  • Aidan from Boston, MaThe solo was stolen from Kiss's "She", which had been stolen from the Doors' "Five to One".
  • Anita from San Diego, CaI love pearl jam and they are probably one of the best artists ever.Eddie is a lyrical genious.
  • Live Freak from Beirut, Other"But 'Alive' is... it's torture. Which is why it's f--ked up for me. Why I should probably learn how to sing another way. It would be easier. It's... it's too much." Vedder continues: "The story of the song is that a mother is with a father and the father dies. It's an intense thing because the son looks just like the father. The son grows up to be the father, the person that she lost. His father's dead, and now this confusion, his mother, his love, how does he love her, how does she love him? In fact, the mother, even though she marries somebody else, there's no one she's ever loved more than the father. You know how it is, first loves and stuff. And the guy dies. How could you ever get him back? But the son. He looks exactly like him. It's uncanny. So she wants him. The son is oblivious to it all. He doesn't know what the f--k is going on. He's still dealing, he's still growing up. He's still dealing with love, he's still dealing with the death of his father. All he knows is 'I'm still alive' -- those three words, that's totally out of burden." Elvis' "Suspicious Minds" blasts on the jukebox as Vedder continues. "Now the second verse is 'Oh she walks slowly into a young man's room... I can remember to this very day... the look... the look.' And I don't say anything else. And because I'm saying, 'The look, the look' everyone thinks it goes with 'on her face.' It's not on her face. The look is between her legs. Where do you go with that? That's where you came from. But I'm still alive. I'm the lover that's still alive. And the whole conversation about 'You're still alive, she said' And his doubts: 'Do I deserve to be? Is that the question?' Because he's f--ed up forever! So now he doesn't know how to deal with it. So what does he do, he goes out killing people -- that was [the song] 'Once.' He becomes a serial killer. And 'Footsteps,' the final song of the trilogy [it was released as a U.K. B side to 'Jeremy'], that's when he gets executed. That's what happens. The Green River killer... and in San Diego, there was another prostitute killer down there. Somehow I related to that. I think that happens more than we know. It's a modern way of dealing with a bad life."

  • Live Freak from Beirut, OtherThis song was actually the first of a mini-opera that Eddie wrote known as the "Mamasan Trilogy". The song describes a boy who grows up believing that one man is his father but finds out that he is not. He grows up to look just like his biological father and his mother falls in love with the son and sexually abuses him. The song "Once" is part II of the story and describes the boy obviously mentally disturbed who is not able to control his rage and goes on a killing spree. The triology is concluded with "Footsteps" where the boy is siting in his cell on death row awaiting his execution.
  • Live Freak from Beirut, OtherBorn Edward Louis Severson III, 1964 in Evanston. Eddie first knew himself as Eddie Mueller after his stepfather, a lawyer with whom he never saw eye-to-eye. When he was a teenager, VedderÃ?s family moved briefly from Chicago to San Diego, leaving Vedder behind when they returned to the Windy City. Vedder adopted his mother KarenÃ?s maiden name, and set about pursuing a career in music. His mother then split up with Mueller, and visited Eddie in San Diego to tell her of her separation. "At first I was pretty happy about it", Vedder told Cameron Crowe in Rolling Stone. "Then she told me who my real dad wasÃ?" EddieÃ?s biological father was a lounge singer called Edward Louis Severson II who had divorced Eddie's mother when he was two and died of Multiple Sclerosis when Eddie was thirteen years of age. "I had met the gut three or four times, he was a friend of the family, kind of a distant friend, he died of MS, so when I met him he was in hospital. He had crutchesÃ? or maybe he was in a wheelchair." Once they knew the secret was out, SeversonÃ?s side of Eddie's family made themselves known, and talked about how his musical talent had obviously been passed on to his son. Vedder, by then extremely angry about his mothers deceit, was initially resentful of such statements Ð especially as heÃ?d worked hard to save money for guitars and equipmentÃ? These days, heÃ?s proud to be of his father and has learned to accept his background. "He had no impact in my life," Vedder told Crowe, "but here I am. I look just like him. People in my family Ð they canÃ?t help it Ð they look at me like IÃ?m a replacement. ThatÃ?s where Ã?AliveÃ? comes inÃ?"
  • Heather from Greenwood, InThe "Mamasan triolgy" is about a boy whose mother esentially sexually abuses him because she remembers her first love, the sons dead father, whom he looks so much like, and the boy goes on to become a serial killer along the lines of the greenriver killer or son of sam. Abuse making him insane and criminal. There is some truth to Alive in the fact that Eddies father was not the man who raised him and he was not told until after his real father had died. Whether there is any truth in the rest of the trilogy has not been made public by Eddie. but more than likley Eddie started with a conffessional song and eased it into fiction.
see more comments

Edwin McCainSongwriter Interviews

"I'll Be" was what Edwin called his "Hail Mary" song. He says it proves "intention of the songwriter is 180 degrees from potential interpretation by an audience."

Michael FrantiSongwriter Interviews

Franti tells the story behind his hit "Say Hey (I Love You)" and explains why yoga is an integral part of his lifestyle and his Soulshine tour.

Kip WingerSongwriter Interviews

The Winger frontman reveals the Led Zeppelin song he cribbed for "Seventeen," and explains how his passion for orchestra music informs his songwriting.

Janis IanSongwriter Interviews

One of the first successful female singer-songwriters, Janis had her first hit in 1967 at age 15.

Allen Toussaint - "Southern Nights"They're Playing My Song

A song he wrote and recorded from "sheer spiritual inspiration," Allen's didn't think "Southern Nights" had hit potential until Glen Campbell took it to #1 two years later.

Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & PalmerSongwriter Interviews

Greg talks about writing songs of "universal truth" for King Crimson and ELP, and tells us about his most memorable stage moment (it involves fireworks).