Alive is a song by Pearl Jam which was written by guitarist Stone Gossard before the band had a lead singer. It was part of a 3 song instrumental demo they made while looking for a vocalist. Jack Irons, a friend of Gossard's and drummer for The Red Hot Chili Peppers, gave Eddie Vedder the demo tape. Vedder wrote lyrics and recorded a version with his vocals. The band liked what they heard and made him lead singer.
The demo was titled "Dollar Short." It was changed to "Alive" after Vedder wrote lyrics for it.
Vedder's lyrics are about a boy who finds out his father is actually his step-father, and that his real father is dead. Vedder later revealed that the song was autobiographical, and the chorus of "I'm still alive" was what he considered his curse, as he struggled to deal with the strained relationship with his step-father and the fact that his real father was dead. In an episode of VH1's Storytellers, Vedder explained that the interpretation of the song had changed, as fans would react to the chorus by jumping around and celebrating - they heard "I'm still alive" as a positive thing, an affirmation of life. Said Vedder: "When they changed the meaning of those words, they lifted the curse."
Eddie's mother divorced his father when he was one year old, and was raised by his step-father without him knowing it. Eddie had even met his true father without even realizing they were related. Eddie's mother told Eddie about how his parents had divorced when he was 13, and Eddie also learned to play guitar at 13 - both of which are mentioned in the song. (thanks, Elliot - St. Louis, MO)
The other 2 songs on the demo follow this story. After Vedder put lyrics to them, the songs became "Once," where the boy goes nuts and starts killing people, and "Footsteps," where the boy is sentenced to death and blames his mother. Vedder called this the "Mamason" trilogy.
Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready based his guitar solo on the one Ace Frehley played on the Kiss song "She." In an issue of Guitar Player magazine, Frehley said that his solo in "She" came from Robbie Krieger's guitar work on The Doors' "Five To One." (thanks, Ken - LaSalle, Canada)
In the US, this was the first song Pearl Jam released as a single.
The drummer in the video is Matt Chamberlain. He took over after Pearl Jam's first album, but left soon after to join the Saturday Night Live band.
In 2000, the band was playing the Roskilde Festival in Denmark when 9 fans were crushed to death in the mosh pit. They were about to play this, but stopped the show when they saw people being pulled out of the crowd in real bad shape. Some of the 40,000 people in the crowd began singing "I'm still alive," unaware that the event had turned tragic. Pearl Jam left the stage and the next band, The Cure, refused to go on out of respect for the dead.