This is the true story behind Pearl Jam’s hit song, “Jeremy”. Much of the song is about a 15 year old Sophomore who’d attended Dallas, Texas’s Richardson High named Jeremy Delle who had often been the target of bullies. The young man had lived with his daddy, Joseph Delle, though his mama, Wanda, was still quite involved in her son’s life. Jeremy was a talented artist who’d even won first prize at the fair one year for the drawing of an elephant, but he had trouble making friends as he’d been painfully shy.
As Jeremy grew it became evident that there were also some psychological issues at play, and Joseph went out of his way to ensure his son received psychological help, but sadly not much was available at the time. After the teen was busted for the theft of school property, Joseph begged the system to lock his son up so that he could finally receive the help which he needed, but sadly the father’s pleas fell on deaf ears; no one ever lended Jeremy that desperately needed hand.
On the Tuesday morning of January 8th in 1991, nothing out of the ordinary happened; there was no terrible event which would explain why Jeremy would’ve done what he did. He’d dressed warm that morning, donned a grey sweatshirt, long johns beneath his blue jeans, two pair of socks, and leather boots. Jeremy was late for class on this day; when he entered his second period class, his English teacher, Ms. Fay Barnett, told her pupil to go to the office and not to come back without a tardy slip.
Jeremy left the classroom, but he didn’t go to the office; the teen went to his locker instead. At a quarter to ten, Jeremy walked into class with a .357 Magnum. Ms. Barnett had been standing in front of the class, teaching, when Jeremy approached her. The young man stated, “Miss, I got what I really went for” then Jeremy placed that firearm in his mouth and he blew himself away.
The class had been full that morning, and 30 students witnessed their peer’s suicide. Some of the kids screamed, others bolted from the room, and several students rushed to Ms. Barnett’s aid as the stunned teacher had to be physically held up to keep from collapsing. Meanwhile, a bloody Jeremy lay slumped, deceased on the floor for all to see until the police arrived.
The school day at Richardson High continued, and a team of grief counselors was brought in to give support to the shocked and now grieving students. It was later realized that Jeremy must’ve been planning this for a while, he’d even left a suicide note of sorts with another student.
So, this is the Jeremy from the hit song, but there’s more to it. Parts of the iconic song was also written about a boy named Brian who Eddie Vedder had attended school with back in San Diego, California. Brian was bullied mercilessly, and Eddie himself often fought with the kid. Eddie Vedder says that one day, like Jeremy, Brian brought a firearm to school; thankfully this teenager did not harm anyone, but he did shoot up the oceanography room.
The Pearl Jam hit did bring attention to teen suicide and bullying in a pre – Columbine era when people weren’t talking about these things. Or, at least not in the same way they that they are now.