Just an add-on to (c)all's writeup on the Pearl Jam song "Alive". The song mostly stems from Eddie Vedder's personal experiences. Pearl Jam was originally brought together by guitarist Stone Gossard. The band's centerpiece on their demo tape was "Dollar Short". When Jack Irons passed the demo tape to the struggling Eddie Vedder, Vedder was struck by inspiration. After surfing for a few hours, he came back and recorded his voice over the demo tape with a new version of the song - this would become "Alive". It would lead to Vedder moving to Seattle to join the band and it would be the first single off their debut album, Ten.
The song is partly based on Vedder's own childhood experiences. When he was 2, his parents divorced and his mother remarried. She never told him that his stepfather wasn't his biological father until he was 19. By that time, Vedder's real father was long dead and the already-tortured Vedder was left to deal with the mixed emotions he had of a man he thought was a distant family friend.
Many regard the song as one of the so-called "grunge" movement's finest pieces, a bold and defying look at Vedder's own peers - Generation X. In a Rolling Stone article ("Five Against the World" by Cameron Crowe, 10/28/93), Vedder describes the song's meaning in greater detail. I have transcribed the relevant sections here for the benefit of the reader:
"Everybody writes about it like it's a life-affirmation,
thing - I'm really glad about that,' he says with a rueful
laugh "It's a great interpretation. But 'Alive' is...
it's torture. Which is why it's fucked 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 fuck 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 fucked 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 ', 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."
Then he smiles as he says, "I'm just glad I became a