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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 297
Tues, Nov 6, 2012

“Better Man”
Pearl Jam

1994

“♫ Talkin’
to herself/ there’s
no one else who
needs to know/ she
tells herself
♫”

“Better Man” was the Pearl Jam song that used to scare me. I remember being with a girl who didn’t really care about me. It was before Y2K, I was in San Antonio and I recall lying next to her and wondering what did I do? Why doesn’t she want me? I wanted to be the man she reached for. That never happened. I used to think “Better Man” was kind of my reflected curse. I would go to sleep wishing I wouldn’t be the guy she settle to be with.

Unbeknownst to me, “Better Man” was one of the oldest and most personal songs that Eddie Vedder had written up to that point. During the Vs. sessions, Pearl Jam new how private “Better Man” was to Eddie that the band never cut demos, it was just a song they would perform together, alone. Engineer and Pearl Jam producer was one of the first champions of “Better Man” as he explained to Cameron Crowe in Pearl Jam Twenty, when he said, “There’s a great song we recorded for Vs., “Better Man”, which ended up on Vitalogy. One of the first rehearsals we did they played it and I said “man, that song’s a hit.” Eddie just went “uhhh.” I immediately knew I’d just said the wrong thing. We cut it once for Vs., he wanted to give it away to this Greenpeace benefit record, the idea was that the band was going to play and some other singer was going to sing it. I remember saying to the engineer, Nick [DiDia], “this is one of their best songs and they’re going to give it away! Can’t happen!””

Did you know Vedder actually wrote “Better Man” when he was a teenager? Eddie discussed this when he said, “I wrote “Better Man” before I could drink—legally—on a four track in my old apartment.” When trying to describe the reasons why Eddie kept “Better Man” from the public, Vedder said, “Sometimes I think of how far I’ve come from the teenager sitting on the bed in San Diego writing ‘Better Man’ and wondering if anyone would ever even hear it. But then there are times when it just all seems too much.”

While I thought this timeless cut from Vitalogy was with a lonely wife in an unhappy marriage, Vedder actually penned “Better Man” about a woman in an abusive relationship. When Pearl Jam would play “Better Man” live the real reason Vedder kept this from the public came to light when he would dedicate his most personal song to, “the bastard who married my mother.”

Looking back I was a lonely and a fool to waste my time with inamoratas who I had no business loving. I allowed these lovers to just use me for what they needed: protection, comfort, security, boredom and/or pleasure. It was a pattern, I would fall for these emotionally unavailable paramours who were already looking for the next one to pretend to live happily ever after with.

But I realize now, “Better Man” wasn’t about me. It’s for the lover who’s afraid of leaving; the one who thinks there’s nothing better so you stay with the one your with instead of the person you’re supposed to love. My wife and I are proof positive that there’s someone out whom if you stay selective, you will find your one True Love. I know because once I found the one I was meant to be, I stopped worrying about being the one she settled for— and simply became her “Better Man.”

Speaking of “Better Man” today is Election Day! Make sure you vote for the only choice in this election. There’s only one “Better Man” Eddie Vedder himself endorses:

Wherever you are—please go and literally Rock your Vote!

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