Just Breathe

Album: Backspacer (2009)
Charted: 78

Songfacts®:

  • This introspective track was triggered by a song from Eddie Vedder's Into the Wild soundtrack. He explained to Billboard magazine that it "uses the first chord from an instrumental called "Tuolumne." There was a lyric or something that hit me, and I picked up the guitar and played that chord. I thought, well, I'll just go with it and make something different out of it. It was a shorter song, and then I wrote a bridge to it while the other guys were working on something else." Vedder added that this song's genesis demonstrated the band's maturity: "It was like our own little Brill Building at the warehouse. I ran in and wrote the bridge, which became the chorus, because [producer] Brendan O'Brien heard it that way. That's an example of letting Brendan hear things objectively and following him whatever way he wanted to take it. We weren't that malleable 10 years ago and all the years previous. You'd write something and say, "Well, no, this is how I want it done." One of the things as you get older is that you welcome others' input. You don't feel like you have to prove yourself."
  • Vedder described this to the Canadian radio station The Edge as "as close to a love song as we've ever gotten." He added to the Toronto Globe and Mail: "There's never a dull moment on the road – every day it's something. Maybe that's why my goal is the dull moment. That's what this song is: It's saying, 'Just stop, and be together. Don't talk now, just breathe and feel each other's presence – now that the kids are in bed.'"
  • The song was used in a May 12, 2014 episode of the TV series The Blacklist.
  • When Jennifer Warnes released her 2018 album Another Time, Another Place after a 17-year absence, she opened it with this song. She explained in a Songfacts interview: "When I looked for songs for this record, I wanted to find narratives that rang true with my age and era, life experience and spiritual position. Because I don't write as much as others, finding those songs was very hard, because a lot of the people who might be writing those songs aren't writing as much. So I had to go to the younger writers to find subjects that had resonance for me. And 'Just Breathe' did."

    "I also liked it because it was unconventional," she added. "It doesn't sound like an ordinary song. It's an unconventional way to speak to someone, and I liked that. And the subject of mortality is on everybody's mind at one time or another, so it was a universal theme, just like love and loss. So I thought it was time for us to talk about that in a simple way, an easy-to-approach way."

Comments: 7

  • Corrine Calabrese-loschiavo from PaI am a recent lung cancer survivor 10/19
    I had 2/3 of my lung removed because of metastasized sarcoma. Something went horribly wrong 10 days after my surgery and I was rushed to ICU and ventilated. Everything was shutting down and I wasn't getting any oxygen. The saddest moment of my life was the look on my husband's face as they started to bag me, which were the last words I heard after the I love you'd exchanged between my husband and I. To this day, they do not know what put me 2 hours from my death. They pulled out every trick to bring me back to my husband, my family!
    All I hear is Pearl Jams, Just Breathe! I have my PT, saying those words now at the end of our treatments and conversations. Ironically enough, the white ribbon represents lung cancer and the bracelets have Pearl's.
    These two words will be my next tattoo
  • Robert from Ottawa, On'Hold me till I die
    Meet you on the other side'
    Would seem to be about death, but its so about life. Living.
  • Tom from Lake Bonaparte, New York (adirondacks)When I first became aware of this song I was like, man you been walking around with your head up your behind, how did you miss this one? I related the words to my relationship with my wife. then after sitting down with a guitar and learning the song it hit me that this song could just as well be about the relationship of a man of faith with Jesus Christ. The words all fit that scenario. I know it is not reportedly what Eddie had in his mind when he wrote it, but it works . . . Love the song even more as a result. I cant sing it Like Eddie can, but I cant wait to cover it as me.
  • Chuck from Concord, Nhcorrect lyric is "Boy if I didn't I'm a fool you see. No one knows this more than me. As I come clean." Awesome song, love Willie Nelson's version just as much. Chuck Q. Concord, NH
  • Trent from Chatsworth, OnThey played this song at my cousin's funeral,i never cried harder in my life. Great song makes me think of him. R.I.P. Tom.
  • Dylan from Adelaide, AustraliaI see this song as being about someone who is about to die. They don't want to die, they want to stay with the ones they love but at the same time theyre looking back on their life and thinking that if they go, they've been privileged because they've loved. This song has really made me appreciate my life so far.
  • Darren from London, United KingdomThis is my Fav track off the new album. Love the Lyric "i'm a lucky man i can count on bothhands the ones i love" and then saying "some folks have and others have none". It makes me feel lucky aswell that i have not just my grilfriend,daughter and my dad and sisters but friends aswell. Even my best mates.
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