"Everlong" was written against the background of the break-up of Dave Grohl's first marriage to photographer Jennifer Youngblood. Having returned home to Virginia for Christmas 1996, Grohl turned the initial riff into a complete song and wrote the lyrics after falling for Louise Post of the band Veruca Salt, "That song's about a girl that I'd fallen in love with and it was basically about being connected to someone so much, that not only do you love them physically and spiritually, but when you sing along with them you harmonize perfectly."
The surreal, satirical video for the song was directed by Michel Gondry. The running time of the video exceeds that of the original version of the song; this version is used only for the video. Although Taylor Hawkins appears in the video as the drummer, Dave Grohl actually plays the drum track on the original album recording, as Hawkins had not yet joined the band. The music video is, in part, a parody of the film The Evil Dead.
The video starts with a black and white shot of Smear and Mendel outside of a house where Grohl and Hawkins (playing his wife) supposedly live. The video then transitions to Grohl's dream, in which he is a punk rocker at a party in which Hawkins' character is getting harassed by Mendel and Smear. The video transitions to Hawkins' dream, in which his character is reading a book, when, all of a sudden, a supposedly undead being creeps up from the floorboard (parodying Evil Dead.) The video transitions back to Grohl's dream, when his hand enlarges and begins to attack Smear and Mendel, after which they vaporise, and wake up in Hawkins' dream. Grohl wakes up after he hears his phone ring. Meanwhile, in Hawkins' dream, Hawkins' character tries to fend off the zombies, while Grohl gets firewood. Hawkins' then attempts to call Grohl, to which point he wakes up. Grohl realizes Hawkins' plight, and tries to wake his character up, to no avail. Grohl goes back to sleep, only to reappear in Hawkins' dream. Grohl then proceeds to save Hawkins and throw the zombies in the lake. The video transitions back to real life to show that Mendel and Smear are in the house. The video takes a surreal twist as real-life Mendel and Smear pop out of the characters' heads. Grohl and Hawkins wake up, and the band finishes the video by playing out the rest of the song.
Although the song is normally performed with electric guitars, vocalist/guitarist Dave Grohl's solo acoustic variation gained popularity after an impromptu rendition on Howard Stern's radio show in 1998. The band has performed it acoustically since then and an acoustic performance concludes their 2006 live CD and DVD Skin and Bones. Additionally, an acoustic version of Everlong was released on Foo Fighters' 2009 Greatest Hits album.
A more upbeat, uptempo elevator music-esque version of the song can be heard at the beginning of the music video for the Foo Fighters song "Learn to Fly" when Jack Black puts the drug in the coffee maker. This version of the song is much like the version of "Big Me" that can be heard in the beginning of their "Monkey Wrench" video.
Comedian and late night talk show host David Letterman has called "Everlong" his favorite song, citing it as having helped him through his recovery from heart surgery in 2000. Foo Fighters were invited to serve as the musical act on the February 21, 2000 episode of Late Show with David Letterman, the first since his surgery, to perform "Everlong." Grohl stated that he was "blown away" after learning that Letterman was a fan of their music. The band went as far as cancelling a stop on a tour in South America so they could perform, explaining that "We just felt like we had to be there. Not only was it an honor to be asked, but it felt like something we had to do – because he had always meant so much to us. And that started this connection that we've had for years. It's fucking cool, you know?" On May 20, 2015, the band returned to perform "Everlong" again, this time to close David Letterman's final episode. The six-minute-long performance was set to a montage of footage spanning Letterman's career.