Jewel Talks “Hands” in Chicken Soup’s Story Behind the Song

As promised, today Backseat Writer is publishing an excerpt from the book, Chicken Soup For the Soul: Story Behind the Song (read review), explaining the story behind Jewel’s song, “Hands.”   During dark times in my life, the song “Hands” has also been an inspiration to me, which is why I am excited to present it to you.

Remember you can still win a copy of The Story Behind the Song until 5PM EST TODAY!  To win this amazing book, all you have to do is head to Twitter, tweet this comment, “I want to win STORY BEHIND THE SONG from @backseatwriter, how ‘bout you?” and you’ll be entered to win. Winner will be notified via Twitter, so make sure you’re following Backseat Writer (@backseatwriter) on Twitter.


And now I present “Hands” by Jewel from Chicken Soup’s Story Behind the Song::

I wrote the lyrics to this song when I was 18 and homeless. I had been living in a place I was renting and had a job at a computer warehouse where I answered phones. I had no money at all and was living paycheck to paycheck and still didn’t have money for food. My boss propositioned me and when I wouldn’t agree, he withheld my paycheck and wouldn’t even acknowledge me when I went to  his office and asked for it. My landlord was nice, but said that if he didn’t get paid he would have to kick me out, which he did soon after.

I thought I would sleep in my car until I could get another job. I got really sick with kidney problems and got infections because I couldn’t afford medications or doctors. When I tried to go to the emergency room, I almost died in my car in the parking lot because they turned me away since I had no insurance.  One nice doctor saw me and helped me and even got me the medicine I needed.

I’m not proud of this, but I was so broke that I shoplifted. The only thing I took was food – carrots and peanut butter. I couldn’t keep a job because I kept getting sick. Then the car I was living in got stolen.

I was walking by a store window and saw a dress I really wanted. I remember it was $39. I’d never taken anything like that before and when I even considered it, I realized that I must have lost all faith in myself if I didn’t think I would be able to afford $39! I knew then that I had to regain self-confidence. That’s when I wrote the lyrics to this song.

If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be, we’re all okay
And not to worry
‘Cause worry is wasteful and useless
In times like these.

Life is a calcification of your thoughts. I was watching what my hands were doing. Are they opening or closing doors? Are they shoplifting or writing songs?

My hands are small I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own
But they’re not yours, they are my own
and I am never broken.

I knew that even though I felt powerless, there was hope and I couldn’t and wouldn’t give up.

Poverty stole your golden shoes
But it didn’t steal your laughter
And heartache came to visit me
But I knew it wasn’t ever after.

Years later, things turned around and this song became a hit from my second album. My husband and I went camping in the mountains in northern California and as we were coming back down, we noticed an American flag at half mast. We thought a fireman may have perished because fires are not uncommon there. As we came further down, there were more flags at half mast. Finally, the radio worked and we learned that the twin towers had come down. It was surreal. Then we heard the DJ dedicate “Hands”, a song I’d written at 18 at a dark time in my life, to America. It was an unbelievable experience.

You have to keep fighting for what you believe in.

0 thoughts on “Jewel Talks “Hands” in Chicken Soup’s Story Behind the Song

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I love that song and now it means even more knowing all the background. I’ve always liked Jewel because her songs actually have something to say rather than being empty lyrics.

  2. Dear Backseat Writer,
    Oh I just discovered your site & I absolutely love it! What a true gem – I like all these sneaky behind-the-scene bits 🙂
    In reference to Jewel’s story behind her song ‘Hands’ – this song has been the 1st jewel song I came across some years ago. Since then it has been one of my all-time-Jewel-Favourite-Songs’ – now even more so that I know the story behind.
    Thank you for sharing! Please continue the fabulous backseat writing 🙂

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