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Better Man by Pearl Jam

Album: VitalogyReleased: 1994
  • Eddie Vedder wrote this before joining Pearl Jam while he was still in his teens. He performed it with his previous band, a San Diego based group called Bad Radio.
  • This is about a woman who settles for the man she has because she doesn't think she can do any better. Vedder had his stepfather in mind when he wrote it. After Eddie's biological father died, his mother remarried, and Eddie thought she did it only because she needed someone to help support the family. (thanks, Zipper - Phoenix, AZ, for above 2)
  • At some concerts, Vedder has dedicated this to "The bastard who married my mother."
  • Only the second Pearl Jam song to chart in the US. Many of their songs were not released as singles in America, which encouraged fans to buy the albums.
  • The album was released as a vinyl record 2 weeks before it was issued on CD. Vinyl was completely outdated, but many people still had record players and Pearl Jam liked the imperfect sound of albums, with the scratches and blips providing a different listening experience each time.
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Comments: 57

This describes why I stayed with my ex as long as I did. We dated for a year but I wanted to leave him after a few months. We were going through navy nuike school, which is one of the most stressful academic programs in the country, not even considering the military part.Carolyn - Detroit, Mi
She loves someone who does not love her.
She can't leave him. He doesn't appreciate her, she knows it. But pretends it is not happening.

Earlier in her life, she was strong and in control. She would not have allowed herself to love someone who didn't love her.

He will always control her. She gives him power. She will always go back to him.
Mary - Chicago, Il
NO CODE, YIELD, BINAURAL, and RIOT ACT are way better than TEN, VS, and VITALOGY. And you can pretty musch pass off PEARL JAM and BACKSPACER, even though they are still great.Zach - Tallahassee, Fl
I recently learned to play this on guitar.I had always been able to play most of it just by ear except for the opening.I like the rythm of this song and I like how it encompases both finger picking and strumming.Brian - Boston, Ma
This is one of my favorite PJ songs. Eddie Vedder said on VH1 Storytellers that it was
written when he was in High School. He also said it was about the abusive relationship
he witnessed growing up.
Ginny - Hopewell Junction, Ny
Better man is about a woman wanting to leave the relationship she is already in but, fears the thought of being by herself so she lies and says she's in love him because she can't find a better man. It's not that the relationship she's in is abusive, it just that she swears she used to know him but as time has gone by he's changed (or they've both changed) and now she wants out. However, it is mostly likely that she'll probably only leave once she finds that better man but until then she'll stay put. Talking to herself, "there's no one else that needs to know", most likely refers to her keeping these feelings bottled up not because she doesn't have anyone to talk to but because to everyone else maybe they seem like a happy couple and she thinks why bother people with her problems. Maybe because she even feels bad telling someone that, "I'm only with him because i'm scared to be by myself" or "I'm only with him until someone better comes along", that would sound so shallow to someone else who is not her position or feels the way she does. Which again is why she lies and says she's in love with him, can find a better man. I hope this makes sense.Biannca - Brisbane, Australia
sorry, having comment issues....Tonya - Milwaukee, Wi
This is one of those songs that can take on a few different meanings, whatever is closest to what your experiencing. I thinks its more of the woman who loves a but is not in love with this guy, but she wants to be. He is everything good, stable, and he loves her, but the feelings just aren't there. She doesn't leave him to find somebody else b/c she doesn't think she will find a better one.Tonya - Milwaukee, Wi
I think this is so one of those thats means whatever fits you best at the time, like i could totaly see the abusice part, or the sooo in love part, but to me take the form of shes not inlove with him, but she wants to be. He's everything good and stable, and he loves her, but the feelings just aren't there for her but she doesn't go seek someone else b/c she won't find a better man.Tonya - Milwaukee, Wi
I think this is so one of those thats means whatever fits you best at the time, like i could totaly see the abusice part, or the sooo in love part, but to me take the form of shes not inlove with him, but she wants to be. He's everything good and stable, and he loves her, but the feelings just aren't there for her but she doesn't go seek someone else b/c she won't find a better man.Tonya - Milwaukee, Wi
- Kent, Harrisburg, PA, you are so very wrong, and so are all the rest that believe it's about the wife cheating on her husband, I have a very similar childhood to what Eddie Vedder had, i have always grown up with my mums partner abusing her physically and mentally for 13 years of my 16 years of life. It's about his mum being in a loveless relationship were the husband treats her like crap but she thinks thats all she deserves! I grew up listening to this song trying to use it to block out her screams and pleas, and it has symmetrical meaning to an abusive relationship.Shelby - Mandurahhh, Australia
It's not one of my favorite songs but I do like it a lot. My favorites are "Jeremy" & "Evenflo" I just watched them a couple of weeks ago in concert @ Virginia Beach.
They ROCKED!!!!
Mojomoon - Los Angeles, Ca
"When I was little and this song was popular, I was about 5 years old. My mom, sister, and I would sing "buttter man" instead of "better man" as a joke. We use to listen to Pearl Jam and groups like htat a lot.- Stefanie, Rock Hill, SC"

How WEIRD...I have 2 daughters, one named Stephanie, and they both sang 'butter man' too!
Georgann - Sewell, Nj
"not abusive in ANY way, for other women maybe,"... right, that came out wrong, what I emant was maybe he is good for other women! just not me. not that he might abuse other women!Christine - Clare, Ireland
This is definitely my favourite PJ song next to Yellow Ledbetter.... I find it kind of relevant to me because I was with a guy who I now am starting to see prolly wasn't as good for me as I thought.. not abusive in ANY way, for other women maybe, but like, he prolly wasn't good for me. but I still can't really move on... it's just such a beautiful song.. it's my dream to see them live..Christine - Clare, Ireland
im pretty sure even thoough the music in the song comes off really soft,this song is riddin with angst and watching bad things happening while he was a teen in older relationships so i think its a call out to all the good guys out there to keep going and make the girl happy and a wake up call to the scumbags.Louie - Denton, Tx
I think that this song has such a dual meaning. If you define the word "lies" as not telling the truth then, she doesn't love him. If you define the word "lies" as lying next to him in bed, then the song takes on an entirely new meaning....that she really does love him and he is sooooo good to her that there is no possible way she would be able to find a better man. Anyone understand what I mean? Regardless, it is a great song from my favorite band.Kent - Harrisburg, Pa
Someone told me once that this song isn't in fact about what you think it's about. This song is figuratively about the American political situation.
The man would be the President, and the woman would be the American public. They pick the president not because they like him, but because they like him best.
Ryan - Winnipeg, Canada
I used to think this song was just about people settling in romantic relationships. Then I saw the documentary "tough guise" by Sut Jally and I realized it is about domestic violence. Now, I work in a domestic violence program at a hospital and this song is awesome. There are some lines of "Better Man" that I don't think best represent a person in an abusive relationship but overall, the song is great and I love that it speaks out against this all too prevalent issue.Elyse - Hanover, Nh
honestly. I take a complete different perspective for this song. and i know im gonna get criticized for interpreting it this way but being a a fan of pearl jam since I can remember and the whole you can interpret pearl jam anyway you want to. thats why they do not come out with a lot of videos because they feel they want people to interpret it themselves but anyways. i fell that yes, the woman portrayed in the song can not find a betterman but the betterman in fact can be you... thats just what i feel. that anyone can in fact be better than the person she is dating.George - Chicago, Il
It's interesting, that "dreams in color, dreams in red". My sister told me that when she was a kid, her good dreams were in color, but her nightmares were in red. I wonder if it's the same here?Heather - Los Angeles, Ca
When I hear "dreams in color, dreams in red" to me it means that sometimes her dreams are real, and sometimes they are not quite real, like you are looking at everything through a red colored lense. Like the abuse is not happening to you.. maybe to someone else.K - Melb, United States
Beer me some coolness for Diana from Chicago
-Dwight Schrute
Diana - Chicago Area, Il
I love how everyone has their own interpretations of "black". It truly is an amazing song and especially after learning more about its meaning (in the Pearl Jam message pit site:
http://forums.pearljam.com/showthread.php?t=255379
that someone mentioned) I can appreciate the song even more. It not only gives me goose bumps, but also, as I'm sure many other people feel, it completely moves me with emotion. I can put myself in the same place as the narrator in the song... whether its truly EV or not... I can't determine, but this song is totally charged with emotion and I'm sure will always be something many people can relate to. Thanks for listening... p.s. I love this site.
Diana - Chicago Area, Il
The way that I feel about this song every time that I hear it, even though my interpretation is completely different from what Eddie says the song is about, is a woman who is in a relationship with a man who gives her everything and anything he can but she feels that she can do "better" but just hasn't found him yet. Even though he does all this, she uses him and "she lies and says she still loves him, can't find a better man". The only reason she stays with him is because he gives her everything she wants. But the last verse of the song talks of how she realizes that she does in fact love him but doesn't treat him the same way he treats her and realizes she needs to do more for him. "She can't find a better man" because there is no one else who will treat her as good as him.Matt - Williston Park, Ny
Red usually signifies passion or seduction. So I think it means she dreams of the passion and love her marriage lacks.Joshua - Reno, Nv
What does the "She dreams in color, She dreams in red" mean?Brian - Portage, Mi
Leandro, Eddie sometimes adds "Save it for Later" by the English Beat to Betterman.Wes - Littlestown, Pa
does anyone know the exact show where Eddie says before playing, "i dont think you ever heard it, its a new song but it was written a long time ago. its dedicated to the bastard that married my momma."?Jonah - Thornhill, Canada
The five Pearl Jam songs I could not live without: Jeremy, Release, Daughter, Given To Fly and Better Man. If you're not a Pearl Jam fan and you're reading this, just listen to those five songs a couple of times. You will be afterwards.Ash - Charleston, Wv
Hi there! Does anybody know which is the song that Eddie usually sings in the end of Better Man in some concerts? I think it's something from Bruce Springsteen or something like that...Leandro - Sao Paulo, Brazil
When I was little and this song was popular, I was about 5 years old. My mom, sister, and I would sing "buttter man" instead of "better man" as a joke. We use to listen to Pearl Jam and groups like htat a lot.Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
I have pearl jam featuring south african choir version of this song. it's just beautiful. eddie's baritone and the choir is just wooaa. it gives me goosebumps esp the last verse "she loved him yeah". the slow strumming builds up towards the end. a beautiful ending. i got it from http://www.theskyiscrape.comShan - Cyberjaya, Malaysia
hey olivia how much better are Australians than americansEd - Melbourne, Australia
I totally agree with you, Brittany. I definitly think they should make a U.S. comeback tour. Pearl Jam rocks!!Alexis - Evanston, Wy
this is one of my favourites, and i could never get sick of it! its so good, eddies voice, the music- love it!!!!!!!!!! damn.....why cant we all be born great songwriters....Olivia - Perth, Australia
This is my favorite Pearl Jam song ever! I remember listening to this when I was younger and loving it even though I had no idea what it was about. Pearl Jam is a great group, I wish they would make a U.S. Comeback!!!!Brittany - Richmond, Ky
This is my favourite Pearl Jam song. It's so good. I could listen to it over and over. The message is pretty obvious too. It's obviously about a woman who settles for less cos she can't find a Better Man. Grat song.Olivia - Perth, Australia
One of PJ's best and a perfect example of the talent Vedder has for improvising vocally at the end of a song, after he's done singing the song's lyrics. He does that in the last few bars of this one when he bellows out that great little descant, if you will. "Jeremy" is another example.Ash - Charleston, Wv
the song is not about a wife who cheats on her husband and wants to leave him, its about a bastard husband who treats his wife like crap but she wont leave him because she's scared of being on her own. and as previously said, it may be an abusive relationship.

evidence:
the wife is "waiting, watching the clock, its 4 oclock" in the morning and her husband isnt home yet. she "tells herself to take no more" and that its "got to stop". she "practices her speech" but when he comes home,instead of standing up to him she rolls over and "pretends shes asleep".

it may be abusive because she "tell herself" that "noone else needs to know....".

lastly, she's obviously not cheating on her husband, because if she was, then the chorus would obviously not keep saying "cant find a better man", because she obviously would have already found one.
Andy - Granger, In
the meaning here is so clear. she don't want to leave this way, thats why she'll be back again" It's about a guy involved in this relationship with a girl who is taking their love for granted. she may be involved in an affair and wants to tell him. He feels he is the "better man", and feels that when she leaves him she will realize this and end up wanting her old lover back "thats why she'll be back again". it happened to me. And its not my ego talking either.Wayne - Denver, Co
I absolutely LOVE this song. It makes me cry every time. I wish I could have seen it live. I'm very jealous of everyone who has been to a Pearl Jam concert.Alexis - Evanston, Wy
"Pretends to sleep as he looks her over"
She is definitly with a man that she does not love, and yet he still fulfills some type of void in her spirit. She is disappointed in herself because, by staying in this relationship, she does not dare venture out from her "comfort zone". Instead, she gives up on ever feeling true love again. "Memories back when she was bold and strong, waiting for the world to come along..." At one point in the song, it also appears that he may have been abusive to her, maybe not physically, but emotionally or mentally. "Talking to herself, 'There's no one else who needs to know,' she tells herself" Perhaps this is why Eddie refers to him as "the bastard".
Jo Jo - Philly, Pa
This sond was written by Eddie Vedder when he was 12, actually, not in his teens. I wish I had that much talent at twelve. I have been to 3 Pearl Jam concerts, and every time Eddie dedicated to his "bastard stepfather"...Kevin - Dallas, Tx
This song is surely about sticking with a bad rlationship, maybe even a violent one ("There's no-one else who needs to know") just because you don't have the strength to leave. Vedder's songs are so influenced by his family's break up and his stepfather's arrival, that it makes sense to me in that context. That whole thing of "practising her speech" is very familiar to any woman living with an SOB, trying to get out and fantasising about the day she really gets the courage up to face him off and tell him she's leaving.Eloise - London, England
This song seems to be about a woman cheating on her husband, whom she doesn't love, but needs his support to survive. She is trying to tell him she doesn't love him, but she lies to herself everytime she is going to tell him. This is a good song, and displays a lighter side of grunge.Elliot - St. Louis, Mo
This is classic Pearl Jam. Yet another good one to use on your friends who are unconvinced of this Grunge giant's magnificance.Drew - Kansas City, Mo
this song is touching to every girl out there b/c every girl feel that they must have a man to get through life and be loved and this song interprets that a girl she cant find a "Better man" and Its just a song that girls cant relate too!! I luv This song and Pearl Jam Rocks!!Cailey - Hornell, Ny
This is for SCOTT, Betterman was PERFORMED and WRITTEN Before Eddie was in Pearl Jam. Eddie wrote it when he was in his homemade band called "Bad Radio", Now the riffs are different and everything, but the lyrics are EXACTLY the same. Check on Google and you can probably download it.Stephen Lally - Wappingers Falls, Ny
to correct Scott, the song was written pretty much exactly the same many years ago when Eddie played in Bad Radio, you can download a liver version of it from those days and apart from a slight difference in arrangement and slightly dodgy guitar playing its exactly the same..Andy - Leeds, United States
For what it's worth to anyone, I was recently trying to find out what other peoples' thoughts were on the song. My own depection, a man sees a girl that is in love with another man. Only, he is terrible for her, and she needs to lose him. But she has so convinced herself that she's in "love" with him that she lies to herself and keeps saying it's love. She "practices her speech" to finally end it but when he comes home "she rolls over, pretends to sleep." To try and sum it up, she's in the same situation many girls fall into that they think they've found the man of their dreams and are too stuck on them to ever think he is bad for them. They are so blinded that they convince themself that they "can't find a better" man when in reality it's that they need a better man. And for us guys that like this song for its lyrics, as well as it being a good song, I think it's always that we think we're the better man. Or maybe, we KNOW we're the better man..Stephen - Broadalbin, Ny
The comment about Eddie performing this song as a teen has a slight misconception attached to it. He was quoted by saying that if it were not for Jeff and Stone "Betterman" would never have been recorded. He also stated that it was written well before he joined the band. Whether or not he wrote the lyrics during his teen years I cannot say with any certainty, but I do know that the music was Jeff and Stone's creation - making it impossible for Eddie to have performed it as we know it during his early years. Watch the song be performed on "Live at the Garden" DVD and you will find out about its origin.Scott - Hubbard, Oh
I thought this was about domestic violence.Fiona - Philadelphia, Pa
I think almost every girl can relate to this song, no matter how you interprate it.
Alot of us are led to believe that we are nothing without a 'man'. I believed this illusion for years before I recognised the truth of being your own person, and having good friends is far more important than settling down with the first 'man' that comes along!
Rachel - Sydney, Australia
This song is AWESOME. One of my favorite songs ever!!Hans - Oakdale, Ca
I think the song is about a man who is in love with a woman who is already with somebody else. Hes trying to tell a story about that she doesn't really love him, but she thinks she does. He tells all this good stuff about her, and then when he says, 'cant find a better man' the last time, in the chorus, he is trying to say, cant find a better man than ME.Mary - Lawrenceville, Ga
To me the songs about being with some body and never leaving because you can'tRebekah - Prince George, Va