Present Tense

Songfacts®:

  • There's a simple but very profound message in this song: It makes much more sense to live in the present tense.

    Seems easy enough, but us humans are forward-thinking creatures honed for survival. We're not likely to note the bend of a tree when we really need to prep for that meeting. This soothing but challenging song asks us to take a different approach, living for the present instead of the future, which requires us to process the past so it won't interfere.

    More than most rock stars, Pearl Jam always had a sense of perspective that kept them from falling into unhealthy patterns common to the industry. Instead of obsessing over sales figures and follower counts, they focus on artistry and humanity.
  • Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready wrote the music to this track; Eddie Vedder wrote the lyric.
  • This is a track from Pearl Jam's fourth album, No Code, which went to #1 in America and sold a million copies, but was far less successful commercially than their previous three albums, none of which sold less than a million. The band wasn't concerned, and this song helps explain why. It showed that Pearl Jam was going to hew to their fans and to their own interests, a strategy that served them well.
  • This is the song that plays at the end of the 10-part ESPN documentary The Last Dance, which is about the Chicago Bulls 1997-1998 season, which ended in the team winning their sixth championship in the decade. The series focuses on Bulls star Michael Jordan, a fascinating subject who year after year found ways to win against tough competition. Before the song plays, his biographer explains that Jordan's true talent isn't his athletic prowess or competitive drive, but his ability to live in the present at all times. As Jordan says, "Why worry about missing a shot I haven't taken yet?"

    Eddie Vedder, an Illinois native, is a Bulls fan, and the group loves basketball - at one point they used the name Mookie Blaylock after a player they liked. Pearl Jam has collaborated with ESPN on several occasions, including in 2013 when Vedder interviewed Steve Gleason, a former New Orleans Saints player who was battling ALS.

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