Given to Fly
|"Given to Fly"|
|Single by Pearl Jam|
|from the album Yield|
|B-side||"Pilate" / "Leatherman"|
|Released||December 22, 1997|
|Format||CD single, Cassette, vinyl|
|Writer(s)||Mike McCready, Eddie Vedder|
|Producer(s)||Brendan O'Brien, Pearl Jam|
|Pearl Jam singles chronology|
"Given to Fly" is a song by the American rock band Pearl Jam. Featuring lyrics written by vocalist Eddie Vedder and music written by guitarist Mike McCready, "Given to Fly" was released in December 1997 as the first single from the band's fifth studio album, Yield (1998). "Given to Fly" proved to be the album's most popular single. The song topped the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and eventually peaked at number 21 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song spent a total of six weeks at number one on the Mainstream Rock chart. The song was included on Pearl Jam's 2004 greatest hits album, rearviewmirror (Greatest Hits 1991–2003).
Origin and recording
"Given to Fly" features lyrics written by vocalist Eddie Vedder and music written by guitarist Mike McCready, although loosely based on Led Zeppelin's "Going to California". McCready said he came up with the guitar riff after being stuck in his condo on a snowy day in Seattle. McCready on the song:
It was snowing here in Seattle, which it rarely does, and so they kind of shut down all the streets and I couldn't get my car out of the driveway. And I have a Volvo and you'd think those would be able to drive in the snow, but no, it wasn't going anywhere, so I was kind of stuck in my condo. And I wrote that riff [for "Given to Fly"] and the "Faithfull" riff that day.
In many ways, "Given to Fly" is one of the group's most significant singles—both its classic-rock composition and its warm, crisp sound recall Ten, which suggests that Pearl Jam were at least somewhat shaken by its fanbase's cool reception to the artsy, frayed No Code. The main riff is written in the DADGAD alternate tuning. Regarding the song, McCready said, "I just kind of imagined ["Given to Fly"] as sort of a wave in an ocean: It starts out slow and then it gets a little larger and a little larger and then it breaks and then it comes down again. And that's metaphorically how I think of that song." Drummer Jack Irons stated that "on "Given to Fly", I play a beat that's based around the toms, but it's pretty soft. I'm not sure I would have been comfortable playing that way a few years ago."
Vedder about "Given to Fly":
[I imagined the song as] a 20-page cardboard (children's) book with a line on each page and a picture to go with it. It's a fable, that's all. The music almost gives you this feeling of flight, and I really love singing the part at the end, which is all about rising above anybody's comments about what you do and still giving your love away. You know? Not becoming bitter and reclusive, not condemning the whole world because of the actions of a few.
Release and reception
"Given to Fly" was released as a single in December 1997 with a previously unreleased B-side titled "Leatherman" (about the 19th century vagabond known by that name). "Given to Fly" was featured in a commercial advertising Yield which emulated the album's cover art. "Given to Fly" became the most successful song from Yield on the American rock charts. The song peaked at number 21 on the Billboard Hot 100, number one on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, and number three on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. The song spent a total of six weeks at number one on the Mainstream Rock chart, and ten weeks at number three on the Modern Rock chart.
Outside the United States, the single was released commercially in Australia, Austria, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, and South Africa. In Canada, the song reached the top 30 on the Canadian Singles Chart, and later it charted on the Alternative Top 30 chart where it reached number one and became Pearl Jam's second single to top that chart. "Given to Fly" also reached number 23 on the Canadian Year End Alternative Top 50. "Given to Fly" reached the UK Top 20 and peaked at number 13 on the Australian Singles Chart. "Given to Fly" reached number 67 in Germany, the top 40 in the Netherlands and Switzerland, the top 30 in Sweden, and was a top ten success in Finland and Norway. It was a moderate top 20 success in Ireland and New Zealand.
In Allmusic's review of the "Given to Fly" single, it was stated that "Given to Fly" is "a soaring epic that goes a long way in conveying Yield's majestic splendor. Frontman Eddie Vedder narrates the tale of a misunderstood, near-Messianic youth in front of hushed verses that explode into stratospheric choruses." Billboard called "Given to Fly" "a slow-building rocker that doesn't risk scaring off die-hards" in its review of the song. In addition, it was stated that "it's catchy and crisp enough to make the grade with popsters."
The guitar part and main vocal melody in the song have been noted for their similarities to Led Zeppelin's "Going to California" from the 1971 album Led Zeppelin IV. Tom Lanham of Entertainment Weekly said in his review of the song, "This latest PJ perambulator not only apes vintage Page/Plant latticework but also blatantly nicks the entire melody line from Led Zeppelin's delicate 'Going to California' ...Still, the song builds into such an emotional crescendo that it almost shakes its historical shackles. Almost." When asked about the similarities, guitarist Mike McCready stated, "It's probably some sort of rip off of it I'm sure...Whether it's conscious or unconscious but that was definitely one of the songs I was listening to for sure. Zeppelin was definitely an influence on that." At a 2005 benefit concert in Chicago for Hurricane Katrina relief, Pearl Jam performed the song in concert with Robert Plant in attendance. The band then segued "Given to Fly" into "Going to California", with Plant joining in.
"Given to Fly" is significant because of its emotional climaxing music and its lyrics about existence and rebirth. It is played live with some regularity.
"Given to Fly" was first performed live at the band's November 12, 1997 concert in Santa Cruz, California at The Catalyst. Pearl Jam performed the song in 2005 for the ReAct Now: Music & Relief benefit concert. Live performances of "Given to Fly" can be found on the live album Live on Two Legs, various official bootlegs, the Live at the Gorge 05/06 box set, and the live album Live at Lollapalooza 2007. Performances of the song are also included on the DVDs Single Video Theory and Touring Band 2000. The song was performed on September 26, 2015 at the Global Citizens Festival in Central Park, and it was dedicated to Malala Yousafzai. This version featured Eddie changing the lyrics slightly to fit her story.
- CD (US, Australia, Austria, Japan, Korea, and Mexico), 7" Vinyl (US and The Netherlands), and Cassette (US, Australia, and The Netherlands)
- "Given to Fly" (Mike McCready, Eddie Vedder) – 4:01
- "Pilate" (Jeff Ament) – 2:58
- "Leatherman" (Vedder) – 2:31
- CD (Austria and South Africa)
- "Given to Fly" (McCready, Vedder) – 4:01
- "Leatherman" (Vedder) – 2:31
|Australian Singles Chart||13|
|Canadian RPM Top Singles||24|
|Canadian RPM Alternative 30||1|
|Dutch Singles Chart||36|
|Finnish Singles Chart||5|
|German Singles Chart||67|
|Irish Singles Chart||18|
|New Zealand Singles Chart||12|
|Norwegian Singles Chart||6|
|Polish Singles Chart||5|
|Swedish Singles Chart||29|
|Swiss Singles Chart||39|
|UK Singles Chart||12|
|US Billboard Hot 100||21|
|US Mainstream Rock Tracks||1|
|US Modern Rock Tracks||3|
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