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 song. 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."
This stylistic change was further cemented when it seemed to create severe tensions between Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth. This conflict eventually ended in Roth's departure from the band. In the 1995 Rolling Stone cover story on/interview with Eddie Van Halen (RS #705, dated April 6) the circumstances surrounding Roth's leaving are discussed. In this interview Eddie claims that the main reason for the split was that Roth and Ted Templeman both disliked the fact that he had built his own studio and was able to work on music away from their influence. He said that "the first thing I did up here was 'Jump' and they didn't like it. I said 'take it or leave it', I was getting sick of their ideas of what was commercial ... At first Crazy from the Heat was great because Roth laid off me a bit. Little did I know he was testing the waters. Then he called me up and asked me to go to his house and said he was going to make a Crazy from the Heat movie. He had some deal that fell through. But at the time I was depressed. I cried, then I called my brother and told him the guy quit."
Nevertheless, Roth and Templeman did work on "Jump" at Eddie's disputed new studio, with Roth providing the lyrics and the vocal melody.
Ted Templeman recalls that "'Jump' was recorded at Ed's studio. Donn 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 song was listed by The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum as one of the "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll."