“Everybody Hurts” is a song by R.E.M., originally released on the band’s 1992 album Automatic for the People and was also released as a single in 1993. It peaked at number twenty nine on the Billboard Hot 100, and peaked within the top ten of the charts in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland and France.
Much of the song was written by drummer Bill Berry, although as R.E.M. shares songwriting credits among its members, it is unknown how much he actually wrote. Berry did not drum on the song—a Univox drum machine took his place—but he was responsible for the sampling of the drum pattern on the track. The string arrangement was written by Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones.
Guitarist Peter Buck commented on the making of the track saying “‘Everybody Hurts’ is similar to ‘Man on the Moon’. Bill brought it in, and it was a one-minute long country-and-western song. It didn’t have a chorus or a bridge. It had the verse . . . it kind of went around and around, and he was strumming it. We went through about four different ideas and how to approach it and eventually came to that Stax, Otis Redding, “Pain in My Heart” kind of vibe. I’m not sure if Michael would have copped that reference, but to a lot of our fans it was a Staxxy-type thing. It took us forever to figure out the arrangement and who was going to play what, and then Bill ended up not playing on the original track. It was me and Mike and a drum machine. And then we all overdubbed.”
In the liner notes of the album In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988–2003, Buck writes that “the reason the lyrics are so atypically straightforward is because it was aimed at teenagers”, and “I’ve never watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but the idea that high school is a portal to hell seems pretty realistic to me.” Incidentally, the song was used in the 1992 film of the same name that preceded the show.
In 2005, Buck told the BBC: “If you’re consciously writing for someone who hasn’t been to college, or is pretty young, it might be nice to be very direct. In that regard, it’s tended to work for people of a lot of ages.”
In the video for the song, directed by Jake Scott and filmed along the double deck portions of I-10 near the I-35 Interchange in Downtown San Antonio, Texas, the band is stuck in a traffic jam. It shows the people in other cars and subtitles of their thoughts appear on screen. At the end, all the people leave their cars and walk instead; then they vanish. The video was heavily inspired by the traffic jam in the opening dream sequence of Fellini’s 8½.
In 1995, British emotional support listening service The Samaritans, in response to the high suicide rate but low crisis service take-up amongst young men, launched a UK press advertising campaign consisting solely of the lyrics to “Everybody Hurts” and the charity’s hotline number.
The song was placed on R.E.M.’s Warner Brothers “best of” album In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988–2003 in 2003. It was one of four songs from Automatic for the People to make the compilation, more than from any other album.
The song is included on R.E.M. Live.
It’s also featured in the Family Guy episode “The Heartbreak Dog”.