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The synth line was written around 1981 by Eddie Van Halen but it was refused by the other members of the band. In 1983, producer Ted Templeman asked Roth to take a listen to the unused song idea. Riding around in the back of his 1951 Mercury, with band roadie Larry Hostler driving, Roth listened repeatedly to the tune. To come up with a lyric for it, he remembered seeing a television news report the night before about a man who was threatening to commit suicide by jumping off a high building. Roth thought that one of the onlookers of such a scene would probably shout "go ahead and jump". Roth bounced this suggestion off Hostler who agreed it was good. Instead of being about a threatened suicide, the words were written as an invitation to love. Roth later told Musician magazine that Hostler was "probably the most responsible for how it came out."
Ted Templeman recalls that "'Jump' was recorded at Eddie Van Halen's studio. "Engineer Donn Landee and Ed put the track down alone in the middle of the night. We recut it once in one take for sonic reasons. Dave wrote the lyrics that afternoon in the backseat of his Mercury convertible. We finished all vocals that afternoon and mixed it that evening."
The keyboard part was performed on an Oberheim OBX-a. Live performances began with Eddie's synthesizer solo "1984". During the reunion tour with Roth, the two songs were used for the band's encore.
Musically, the song was a departure from the band's hard rock style, embracing more of a popular and radio-friendly sound. "Jump" has been described as a "synth rocker", as a combination of hard rock and pop, as exemplifying pop rock of the 1980s, built on a classic rock foundation of repeated bass notes and having standard rock instrumentation, and as "a true rock masterpiece."
Van Halen performs "Jump", November 10, 2007
The music video for "Jump" was directed by David Lee Roth. It is a straightforward performance clip, much like many of the hard rock videos of the time. It was nominated for three MTV Video Music Awards, and won "Best Stage Performance" for the video.
The original Winnipeg Jets of the National Hockey League played "Jump" on the arena PA system as the team came onto the ice. They used the song until the team's departure for Phoenix after the 1995-96 season. On the team's return in 2011, public outcry for use of the song initially was ignored, as the team's management company True North Sports and Entertainment wished to create a break with the past, considering the previous Jets a different organization from the new Jets (the former Atlanta Thrashers). However, in 2016 True North resumed the use of "Jump", this time as the team's goal song whenever the Jets score a goal at Bell MTS Place.
"Jump" was the theme song for the introduction of Chicago Cubs broadcasts on WGN-TV in 1984 and 1985.