“Jump” by Van Halen
It has been noted that David Lee Roth, the member of Van Halen who actually wrote the lyrics to “Jump”, has given different explanations concerning the song’s meaning. But as part of its official origin story he was inspired to pen it after watching a man threatening to kill himself, by jumping from a deadly height, on a TV news program. And in the first verse of the song in particular he seems to be taking on such a character, i.e. someone who has “seen the toughest around”.
But overall, the lyrics don’t come off as if they are about suicide per se. Rather said character seems to be addressing a female with a similar disposition. And in terms of relaying his aforementioned hardships, what he is basically telling her is that as bad as she thinks her life may be, he has seen worse. So then when he says that she “might as well jump”, honestly it reads as if he is encouraging her to take a leap of faith, if you will, towards edifying her life.
Some have interpreted this exhortation to be along the lines of the singer actually trying to convince this lady to get into a romantic relationship with him. Indeed one of the aforementioned alternate explanations Roth has given concerning this song’s meaning is that is that it is actually about a stripper. But on the surface at least, the lyrics themselves don’t appear to be about love at least. Rather it’s more like the well-traveled vocalist is trying to convince someone who thinks they have life really hard that it could be a lot worse, and his experiences are living proof of such. Thus he is apparently telling said individual that she needs to take a more-invigorated approach to life as opposed to giving up.
This is the lead single from an album Van Halen dropped in 1984 which itself is entitled “1984”. More specifically, the track was released on the date of 21 December 1983.
Writing and Production Credits
The writers of this song are Eddie Van Halen (1955-2020) alongside the following:
- Alex Van Halen
- Michael Anthony
- David Lee Roth
NOTE: All of the names mentioned above are known for being members of Van Halen
Lee Roth in particular dedicated the track to one Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, a well-known martial artist whom he trained under.
The producer of this Van Helen classic is Ted Templeman. And according to Roth, its composition was also heavily influenced by one Larry Hostler, a faithful Van Halen roadie.
The song had sat on the shelf for some years after it was originally penned by Eddie Van Halen in 1981 before the band finally liked it enough to record it. And Roth was eventually able to come up with the lyrics after watching a news report centered on a dude who was threatening to kill himself by the means of jumping off a building.
One of the main reasons it took so long to complete was because Eddie unconventionally opted to use a sympathizer as the lead instrument as opposed to a guitar. Roth in particular took objection to this idea, as he figured it would be perceived as the band selling out in the name of increased radio airplay. At least that’s how he felt at first, but he later grew to like the finished product.
Also according to prominent pop musician Darryl Hall, another influence on this song was a track he and his partner John Oates released in 1981 entitled “Kiss on My List”. What he stated exactly was that Eddie Halen admitted to him that he copied the synthesizer style from said Hall & Oates’ song. But Hall himself had no issues with this.
“Jump” meets Success
Jump was a notable success, topping the Billboard Hot 100, Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart and Canada Top Singles, as well as scoring a number 1 in Italy. And overall it charted in over a dozen countries, going gold in the US, UK and Italy in the process. And in terms of its US gold, in that era that meant the single sold at least 1,000,000 copies.
This track has also been listed amongst the “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll”, as deemed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Van Halen’s Signature Song
And going back to its showing on the Billboard Hot 100, this was the only Van Halen song to reach number one on that prestigious list. And on the aforementioned list, it held down the top spot for 5 weeks. As such, it is considered by many to be the band’s signature song.
And even well past its release date it has remained somewhat of a pop culture staple, specifically in regards to being used during sporting events. Indeed “Jump” is on record as being played by teams in the NBA, MLB and NHL. Also, it is very popular in some European football (soccer) circles.