Given To Fly

Album: Yield (1998)
Charted: 12 21
  • This borrows its structure from Led Zeppelins "Going To California." During a Hurricane Katrina Benefit concert, Pearl Jam played some songs together with Robert Plant, and while playing this one they segued over to Plant's "Going to California."
  • Some people believe the song to be about Jesus Christ. Eddie Vedder was quoted as saying, "It's a children's story." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Brian - Paoli, IN, for above 2
  • Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready wrote the music and Eddie Vedder wrote the lyrics.
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Comments: 37

  • Liam from PhiladelphiaAlways thought this was about Jesus, and someone can have a perspective a Jesus as a man, and not son of God, an atheist can writes song about a man who regardless of your beliefs, has significant historical importance. It's a beautiful song on one of my favorite bands last album in their prime...
  • John from UkHappy to find all of these comments as I was thinking about using this as a launching point for people to share their personal theology. I see Christ in the lyrics, but I bring Christ as a lens I look at most things through. The album itself is inspired by a sociologist, Quinn I think, who wrote the novel Ishmael about a gorilla who teaches truth about man, existence and shows us this through the lens of a philosophic-not-man. To be able to see Christ's story walking through this medium is a gift. To deny Christ here is a right. Denial, however, is not uplifting. If you do not like the Christ lens, find another language that will help you to see how we learn to fly.
  • Al from Wf, TxThis song seems as though Eddie is drawing a correlation between the story of Jesus and a smoker. But what it ends up meaning to me is his own journey. He tells his story veiled behind other stories to create a level of separation. Like all of his songs, I get a peak into his psyche in all of the things he has experienced. He grew up not knowing who, what and where until later. And instead of being bitter and distant, he decided to give back. By doing this, he overcame his confused past and freed himself........ and gained enough strength to free others.
  • Mark from Houston, TxIt sounds a lot like the story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. It is a children's book, so that is consistent with the note at the top about Eddie Vedder saying it is a children's story. My guess is he got the idea from that story. It's a great story, a children's book but a quick enjoyable read for adults. has a powerful message about a seagull who was banished by his clan for not conforming. alone he learned to fly better than any other and eventually met others similarly enlightened. with whom he pursued perfection. later he came back to his benighted flock to enlighten them.
  • Nathalia Juliana from Rio De Janeiro, BrazilEddie can be Catholic and not talk about it. Or it might not be practicing. But if he does not speak, just say that he is an atheist.
  • Zach from Tallahassee, FlIt was kinda of overplayed back in 98-99, but its still a great song, but I think their is a lot better songs from them
  • John from Denver, CoI think it's interesting how much controversy some of the people on this forum have created over this song.

    "It's about Jesus!"

    "No! Eddie Vedder is an atheist!"

    "f--k you!"

    "No, f--k you!"

    It's a mark of artistic and aesthetic value that the piece in question could provoke a small-scale replica of the same misguided spiritual bigotry that has pervaded humanity for thousands of years. I think if one really wants to know what the song is "about," they need only to refer to the emotions incited within, not the ipso facto application of theological doctrine.

    With that said, more than any other religious or mythological construct, this song calls to mind, for me, the hellenic myth of Icarus. In the story, Icarus' and his father Daedalus were imprisoned by King Minos and exiled to the great Labyrinth. There, Daedalus fashioned from bee's wax and feathers two sets of wings for himself and his son. He gave the wings to Icarus along with a warning not to fly to close to the sun, nor the sea. Icarus, however, enamored with the ecstasy of flight, came foul of the warning and continued to fly higher and higher. He eventually came to close to the sun and the heat melted the wax of the wings, sending him plummeting to his death in the sea.

    What is important to realize of this story, what makes it relevant to our lives is it's power of metaphor. We are all trapped in a Labyrinth: the labyrinth of life. It is our task to fashion from the things in our own lives the wings which will bring us salvation. This is more than just esoteric rhetoric. Every person feels the pain and suffering of life, and every person seeks, whether consciously or unconsciously, to free themselves from the prison of suffering we feel in our hearts. Our memories, the people in our lives and the things we have done, are the very materials which, when understood and brought to good use and meaning, will save our souls.

    Being locked in a corridor calls to mind the impossible labyrinth. The reference to Led Zeplin represents the process of finding relevant and immortal meaning in the things which have touched and changed our lives. The wings delivered our "hero" by the sea are Icarus' wings. With the gnostic understanding and participation in flight the hero then returns to the labyrinth to free the rest of humanity there enchained. The fact that he was killed has no relevance because our hero has, in effect, become immortal. Thus, "he still gives his love, he just gives it away, the love he receives is the love that is... SAVED!"
  • David from Houston, TxThis song is about being on acid and thinking you are flying. This song is awesome!!!
  • Poet1987_jlb from Horsham, PaThe song is actually about the creation of angels, ie the Archangel Michael...he's the one who, according to tradition, carries the keys, ie to the locks on the chains he sees everywhere. He carries all men to heaven's door. He was given wings and the wind "set him down on his knee" and he is "sometimes seen as a strange spot in the sky"
  • Adam from Centralia, Waall the basic clues of the lyrics point strongly to him writing this about jesus. If he is not a follower then he respects his utter boldness to detach himself from the world and carry out his mission. the lines " His key to the locks on the chains he saw everywhere
    But first he was stripped and then he was stabbed
    By faceless men, well, f--kers
    He still stands "
    are what pointed it towards jesus for me.
    Oh, and Jordan carrol from iowa. You can shut your damn mouth about what you think you know about any artist. im not talking about the religious part but im tired people thinking they know what there talking about when it comes to any artists personal lives, you may have read an interview, but you dont know what the f--k your talking about, you dont know him, you may be his biggest fan but you dont know him and you probably know nothing about the basic fundementals of music so shut your mouth.
  • Matt from Houston, Tx"smoke in a tree" refers to a lyric in stairway to heaven
  • Matt from Houston, TxI think it is about the betrrayal of icarus. If you don't know the story it is basically this: icarus was the son of daedulous. they were both incredible craftsmen who could build almost anything. daedulous was reasonably old and bitter but icarus was young and full of spirit. anyway icarus made golden wings and melted them onto his back. in one version, as he is about to test them, his jealous father pushed him off a ledge. unprepared he fell to his death. the other version, daedulus warned him very thouroughly not to. but icarus set off nonetheless. daeduloud had a clear chance to save him. icarus flew to close to the sun and the wings melted off, and he drowned to death. daedulous was punished by having to live in agony forevor. The song seems to make that clear. "he could have turned back". he could have not taken off."a wave came crashing like a fist to the jaw". his death."well fuc*ers he stands", and " he still gives his love, he just gives it away" could both represent daedulous's punishment. the love would be a metaphor as he loved his father yet his father killed him. and finally" look at me now". is strikingly simailer to what icarus said while flying.
  • Jordan from Carroll, IaThis song is definitely not about Jesus. Eddie Vedder is an atheist. He would not write a song about a christianity symbol if he doesn't believe in a higher being. From a 1998 interview this is his response when asked about god.

    "I think it's like a movie that was way too popular. It's a story that's been told too many times and just doesn't mean anything. Man lived on the planet -- [placing his fingers an inch apart], this is 5000 years of semi-recorded history. And God and the Bible, that came in somewhere around the middle, maybe 2000. This is the last 2000, this is what we're about to celebrate [indicating about an 1/8th of an inch with his fingers]. Now, humans, in some shape or form, have been on the Earth for three million years [pointing across the room to indicate the distance]. So, all this time, from there [gesturing toward the other side of the room], to here [indicating the 1/8th of an inch], there was no God, there was no story, there was no myth and people lived on this planet and they wandered and they gathered and they did all these things. The planet was never threatened. How did they survive for all this time without this belief in God? I'd like to ask this to someone who knows about Christianity and maybe you do. That just seems funny to me."

    So that dismisses any reason this song is about Jesus.
  • Ben from Majuro, Mh, Otheranyone who plays guitar would disagree that this song is a ripoff of "going to california" by zeppelin. this song is really not similar to going to california. anyone who says so must be tone deaf. pick up a guitar and try to play each song. you will see.
  • Eric from Mentor, OhThis is my favorite Pearl Jam song. As said before, the emotion in the song is amazing and it does send a chill down my spine. I love it.
  • Tyler from Allentown, PaThis song is amazing, my #1 favorite song of all time..really gets me inspired. After hearing Eddie vedder say this song was about a guy who quit smoking, i was convinced it was, i mean who wouldnt? but this paragraph here is really convincing the song is about Jesus Christ..

    He floated back down 'cause he wanted to share
    His key to the locks on the chains he saw everywhere
    But first he was stripped and then he was stabbed
    By faceless men, well, f--kers
    He still stands

    And he still gives his love, he just gives it away
    The love he receives is the love that is saved
    And sometimes is seen a strange spot in the sky
    A human being that was given to fly


    and this part may be about the man who quit smoking..


    He could've tuned in, tuned in
    But he tuned out
    A bad time, nothing could save him
    Alone in a corridor, waiting, locked out
    He got up outta there, ran for hundreds of miles
    He made it to the ocean, had a smoke in a tree
    The wind rose up, set him down on his knee

    A wave came crashing like a fist to the jaw
    Delivered him wings, "Hey, look at me now"
    Arms wide open with the sea as his floor
    Oh, power, ohh

  • John from Boston, MaDuring the intro when they played this 05/23/00 in Lisbon, Portugal ("official" bootleg 2000 series # 1), Eddie states:

    "This is about a guy who quit smoking".

    Straight from the horse's mouth, and sounds right to me!
  • Anthony from Ronkonkoma, NyGreat Song. I wouldn't take it for more than what it's written about. It's an artists goal to make you interpret it for what it means to you. Just think someone with a gift, or a feeling is being ridiculed for it. Even though they shun him, he still knows what is right and does it. People who believe in him
    are rewarded and those who try to defeat him can't.
  • Tori from Boston, MaYeah, the guitar impressively rips off jimmy page's acoustic in Going To California. It's hard to hear at first because John Paul Jones's mandolin (or whatever he's playing) is pretty dominant in California. I didn't notice this until I played that song myself. ANYWAY... I still love this song. Yield was the first pearl jam album I bought, then I went back and got their older stuff
  • Ash from Charleston, WvI think Pearl Jam would more likely be influenced by Led Zeppelin then Tori Amos. No offense to Tori, but she isn't grunge rock at all. Pearl Jam rocks!
    - Elliot, St. Louis, MO
    What is that supposed to mean? That musicians are influenced only by other artists that sound similar to them? Hardly. And as it happens, Tori Amos is a big Led Zepp fan. She released a cover of "Thank You" on EP.
  • Elliot from St. Louis, MoThough I haven't seen them live, I did see a recorded live version of this song. It looked more like Eddie a was pretending to fly then to imitate Jesus. I could be wrong, though.
  • Matt from Dallas, TxMike McCready explains how this song reminds him of a wave breaking on PJ's Single Video Theory.

  • Kevin from Uxbridge, MaI believe this song is about a disenfranchised kid. He runs away, and gets an opportunity to do what the rest of us just dream about- being able to fly. He wants to use his gift to help others, but society sees him as a freak and wants to expose and kill him. He excapes and continues on...
  • Dave from Hawthorne, NjThis song is one of the best live songs. In my opinion Pearl Jam could be on stage, sing happy birthday with a washboard and it would be great, but the emotion that runs through your body when hearing, "Given to Fly" is a physically moving experience. The build up to the refrain is very powerful giving "hope" on a figurative and literal level with lyrics, sound and life. It's all about Jesus Christ which makes it this song all the better-"He floated back down 'cause he wanted to share His key to the locks on the chains he saw everywhere", (referring to the gates of Heaven) -But first he was stripped and then he was stabbed, (referring to the events on the Lord's death -"by faceless men, well, f#cker's, He still stands, (referring to Jesus rising above the horrible acts of mankind to live on and die as our savior)...also, when played live, Ed strikes a "Christlike pose when singing this song with his arms stretched out as if on a cross.
  • Jaocb from Liberty, MoIm not a very smart guy, but i do think this songs about Jesus. Wether it is or not,though, it is one cool song
  • Elliot from St. Louis, MoI think Pearl Jam would more likely be influenced by Led Zeppelin then Tori Amos. No offense to Tori, but she isn't grunge rock at all. Pearl Jam rocks!
  • Jonny from Jeff City, MoJesus? Nah. It's about surfing. Really.
  • Ashley from Moncton, CanadaWow, I find almost no similarity to to Going to California, which is weird because I usually think every song reminds me of another song. This is one of my favourite Pearl jam songs.
  • Stu from Rugby, EnglandI'm convinced this is about Jesus. All the lyrics (except maybe having a smoke!) fit, but the beauty of such brilliant songs is that we can akll interpret them in our own way and then get touched by them every time we listen. Chris Cornell said he doesn't mind how people interpret his songs as long as they affect them. What a brilliant way to look at life!
  • John from Raleigh, NcI actually think the song probably is about Jesus. The "a human being that was given to fly" line really seems like it would be about Jesus to me.
  • Zak from Nekoosa, Wi"He got up outta there, ran for hundreds of miles
    He made it to the ocean, had a smoke in a tree"

    Perhaps the similarity to "G.T.C." is intentional in that the song mentions the character, (you, me, jesus) going to "the ocean" possibly california, and getting high. "smoked my stuff and drank all my wine" another similarity to the infamous song...
  • Ash from Charleston, WvSeveral comments: first, yes this is truly a magnificent song. Definitely one of PJ's best. Second, a children's story that has the F-word in it? Third, Scott in Hubbard, OH, you say the line "he still gives his love away..." could be about Christ but in the same breath you say you like to see yourself when you hear that line. That's quite a self-image you got there. Lastly, I read somewhere once that Michael J. Fox likes to play this song for inspiration when he has particularly difficult days with his Parkinsons disease, etc.
  • Paulo from New York, NyI don't think the similarity to "Going to California" is all that great. The song it reminded me of initially was "Silent All These Years" by Tori Amos (which in itself may have been inspired by Zeppelin's GTC).
  • Scott from Hubbard, Oh"And he still gives his love he just gives it away, and the love he receives is the love that is saved." My favorite line from any song ever written. Reminiscent of one who wears their heart on their sleeve. Jesus Christ? Possibly. But, I usually see myself when I hear that line sung.
  • Kurt from Downers Grove, IlThe melody is a ripoff of Going to California. I don't know for sure if it was intentional.
  • Billy from Tallahassee, FlI would have to agree, this is arguably(IMO) Pearl Jam's best song to date. I have always read into this being his autobiography. I have never heard this to be about Jesus and I doubt it is. This song is one of those rare moments when the guitar lines, vocal abilities and lyrics all are in harmony. Truly and amazing song.
  • Brian from Paoli, InIn my opinion this is one of the best songs in the last 5-10 years and Pearl Jams finest. When the music speeds up and Eddis voice raises it sends chills down my spine.
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