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Black by Pearl Jam

Album: TenReleased: 1991
  • Eddie Vedder explained in the Pearl Jam 20 documentary that this song is about first relationships. "The song is about letting go," said Vedder. "It's very rare for a relationship to withstand the Earth's gravitational pull and where it's going to take people and how they're going to grow. I've heard it said that you can't really have a true love unless it was a love unrequited. It's a harsh one, because then your truest one is the one you can't have forever."
  • By September, 1992, Pearl Jam had taken off, with three singles released from their debut album Ten: "Alive," "Even Flow" and "Jeremy." Sony Records was hot and heavy to released "Black" as the next single, and it was the obvious choice, since it was getting airplay as an album cut and was a ballad that could cross them over to other formats. The band, however, took a firm stance against releasing it, as Eddie Vedder didn't want to make a video or have to go through any more of the promotional process. Vedder won that battle and "Oceans," which got very little attention, was released as the fourth and final single from the album. This was a big moment for Pearl Jam and their manager Kelly Curtis, who stood up to Sony and their powerful CEO Tommy Mottola, who pressured them to issue "Black" as the single.
  • Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard wrote the music for this song, which he called "E Ballad" before Vedder put words to it.
  • This has been rumored to be about a girl who has an abortion without telling her boyfriend, but the lyrics suggest Vedder is talking about a girlfriend (or close companion), who either died or broke up with him. Some lyric analysis:
    "Sheets of empty canvas, untouched sheets of clay" - All art references, art supplies not being changed or used.
    "Were laid spread out before me as her body once did" - Sexual reference? Did she die?
    "All five horizons revolved around her soul" - Possible religious reference, five is a pretty important number to many religions (like a pentagram). It could also refer to her being sprawled out (two legs+two arms+1 head=5).
    "Ooh, I know she gave me all that she wore" - All that she wore could be a metaphor for knowledge, emotional clothing.
    "Oh, the pictures have all been washed in black, tattooed everything..." - He had pictures of the woman, but something happened to her and now they're "black" to him.
    "I'm surrounded by some kids at play" - This could be where the abortion reference is coming from.
    "I can feel their laughter, so why do I sear" - The thought of children brings up bad memories. Maybe it was a child that died, but more likely it's someone heknew.
    "All the love gone bad turned my world to black" - This line supports the breakup theory.
    "Tattooed all I see, all that I am, all that I'll be...yeah..." - His vision and life and meaning has been obscured by this tragic event.
    "I know someday you'll have a beautiful life, I know you'll be a star in somebody else's sky, but why why, why can't it be, why can't it be mine" - She is now with somebody else, but he wants to be with her.
  • Aaron Lewis performed this song live with just his acoustic guitar during Staind's 2002 tour. One recording of it got some radio play. (thanks, Nick - Paramus, NJ)
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Comments: 122

My fav interpretation is the very first one at the bottom of this page by LiveFreak.

Going to see these guys in exactly 2 weeks! Can't wait.
Zero - Nowhere, Nj
Having read the comments posted here, I'd just like to add my 2 cents.
This is a song about breakups as Eric from Melbourne said, but it goes beyond the pain of being jilted.

What I find fascinating is the usage of the word "Everything". I believe it is a placeholder for something of the utmost important to the protagonist, hence it is "everything."

(Note that the song can be equally sung by a woman but given that it was sung by a man, i'll stick to the male voice).

The subject of affection was not familiar with the 'thing', and was taught it by our hero.

The 'thing' was destroyed all is left are clouds (black ash probably)

The 'thing' was further irreparably damaged in the same way a black tattoo would overwrite and destroy whatever it was applied over.

The 'thing' shattered -- broken glass. It also was fragile to begin with. Again - irreparable.

And finally, the riddle is solved -- it's HIS love that is shattered. And what is love? There's his love, her love, and their love which is the product of both their loves. When hers went, his didn't, but the product is that THEIR love is gone.
So his love is still there, and what is it based on? Trust, respect, attraction, admiration. Some of it is still there but the rest is gone, forever.

This is not a song about breakup. It's a song mourning the incomplete demise of love. Some aspects go (respect, trust, etc.), some remain behind to torment.

When he says "Why can't it be mine?" He is not WISHING it to be his. He is mourning the fact that it has gone. As in, "Why did it have to happen to me"

----------
As for the other two references -
The sheets -- bed? Empty, yet lying in it is unbearably "heavy" (lead).
The kids -- you know how you watch people in love - they behave like kids. And of course, he thinks of her, although the love is gone.

POETRY, GOTTA LOVE IT.
Amir - Bellevue, Wa
Great song...brings back bittersweet memories.Ernest - Corpus Christi, Tx
While I always wanted to know the true meaning of this beautiful and deep song, I also love this mystery of it and the passion with which Eddie sings it. It always takes me to a place....I'm leavin it at thatDee - Pittsburgh, Pa
wow!! so many opinions. whose do i believe? hmmmmm... okay, i've got it. how about my own. music is art, you see, and like all art it is subject to interpretation. what i'm saying is believe what you feel about it. it's eddie's song, but he gave it to us. just be happy with that. oh yeah, i almost forgot. IT IS a break-up song.Tony - Beloit, Wi
what i get from this song is a girl leaves her man and everything has turned black for him he cant see or do anything straight anymore. my aunts favorite song R.I.P.Justin - Greenwood, In
In real life, it was his MOTHER who had the abortion. He's just keeping her privacy, supposedly...bet on it!Luckyneko - Malta, Tuvalu
I would say this isn't about a girl who he was already involved with, but someone who he wanted very badly. He thought they were meant to be and were perfect for eachother but unfortunately, due to certain barriers he may have created from being too shy, scared, etc. they never could have a relationship. I think some of you are over-analyzing some of this, especially the "I'm surrounded by kids at play...I can feel their laughter, so why do I sear" part. This is simply just there to show how heartbroken he is, and how not even "happy" things like children playing can make his pain go away.Braden - Vancouver, Bc
Holly S%*t! it took me so long to get to the bottom of this page, that I forgot what the hell I was going to type. This is easy.
1. we have all heard the song, so I don't think you need to type it all out. You have wasted time.
2. It is a breakup song
3. The color black is always used to symbolize a void, death, the raiders. Either way losing a love of some kind, burned some pics, pissed at the sun, and lost in emotion.
The end
Jeff - Kingston, Tn
OMG you people are over thinking it. sheets of empty canvas untouched sheets of clay, were laid spread out before me as her body lay still. he is obviously an artist who fell in love with a girl that was his muse. he taught her everything about how to be a muse she gave me all that she wore, so she was a nude muse.bitter hands, over worked hands chafe benieth the clouds of what was every thing. she was everything to him and the cloud is all his hard word. all the pictures said all been washed in black tattooed everything. pictures burn black right, he was burning his pictures of her. i take a walk out side im surrounded by some kids that play i can feel their laughter in me, so why do i sneer. well he's miserable he doesn't want to see kids happy. twisted thoughts that spin around my head, how quick the sun can drop away. hes going crazy over this girl and its leading him down a dark path.my bitter hands cradle broken glass of what was everything all the pictures said all been washed in black tattooed everything. his angry hands hold the broken glass of the picture frames as he watches them burn and turn to black. all the love gone bad turn my world black tattooed all i see all i am all I'll be. this s--t is tearing him up side to the point of a deep dark depression. i know some day you'll have a beautiful life i know youll be a sun in somebodyelses sky but why can't it be mine. he know that she will be happy but he doesnt understand why she can't be happy with him.
and there it is nothing more nothing less. stop overthinking people.
Curtis - Urbana, Il
I feel it with my heart, and can't stop the tears. I showed someone the starsign Cassiopeia, because it resembles a W. At least I'm a star in his sky.Wendy - London, United Kingdom
I don't really understand how a straightforward song about lost love can get so twisted up by people into believing that it's about abortion or virginity! Even the so-called "Songfacts" at the top of this page are just random guesses. This is no way to understand poetry, and Eddie's lyrics are definitely poetry. The meaning is crystal clear and its not meant to be cryptic.

If you've never been left by someone you loved - who truly meant everything to you - then you'll never really get this song. When you build your world around someone, and invest all your senses ("five horizons") in them, your world shatters and everything turns black. Not even the laughter of little children can penetrate that.

The "sheets of clay" reference is about the untouched and abundant possibilities that exist at the start of a relationship - including the early joys of sexual intimacy.

A similar sentiment is expressed in Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek" - coincidentally, another song completely misinterpreted here by 15-year-olds who treat it like it's the freaking Rosetta Stone, like a puzzle that has to be decoded line by line. Feel it with your hearts, don't think it with your head!
Eric - Melbourne, Australia
I know! If Eddie is so pissed about the state of the world, why did he bring kids into it? WTF? That's his problem for having kids during revelations?! Jesus f--king Christ!Chelsea - Seattle, Wa
I know EXACTLY what this song is about. Eddie is delusional, and thinks he is some kind of demi god. He runs into a girl that he thinks is his demi queen. She thinks he sucks at surfing and goes back to Manhattan. He is left peuking over it.Chelsea - Seattle, Wa
I know exactly what this song is about. Eddie desired a girl that he felt he could never have and went into a fantasy world about them being together since it would never come true.

The End.
Chelsea - Seattle, Wa
Ok, everyone seems to have a different take on this song and it's clouding my own judgment. Let me offer my opinion. The song is about Vedder's soul mate. Instead of her dying, their baby is stillborn and is the ultimate cause of their demise. He still feels there's unfinished business between them. He's merely explaining his own view of the break up. I know how break ups effect me and a baby's death would only complicate things more. The 'black' referred to is the state of mind he's been subjected to on account of the circumstances. He seems to be lashing out in a passive way, if that makes sense, because he has no control over her actions. When he says she'll be a star in someone else's sky, he means it in more of an eventual kind of way. One day she'll realize she is not at fault for what happened and move on. To understand this song you have to try to understand a woman. If you had a child growing in you, only to have it die, would cause a lot of heartache and mental distress to you. Her way of coping with this was running from it.Dylan - Hartsville, Tn
"sheets on empty canvas, untouched sheet of clay" to me the first time i heard those lyrics it was like, that's where am at a grave my love is dead gone, sad memories, for those that were involved with it my kids my kids mom sorry. love you guys my life its never gonna be the same ever... thank you pearl jam your music is helping me cope with my tormented life .. peace and love eErnie - Downey, Ca
I always thought it was about losing your virginity, but maybe it was around the same time I didLisa - Riverside, Ca
I believe that the "Untouched Sheets of Clay" is an open grave. The 5 Horizons are the 5 sides to the grave.Pearl Floyd - Ottawa, On
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vi2x28FEwCo if you skip it to 4:00, you can hear he says 'star' ('i know you'll be a star in somebody elses sky...') so that should hopefully clear things up for you :)
i love this song with a passion. it's so beautiful.
Chicken - Manchester, United Kingdom
This song seems to me to be about someone leaving,I agree, but to all the people who act like they know for a fact what the song is or isn't about: You are living in a seriously deluded world, this goes double for the guy who says this can't be about abortion because EV is pro-choice, I'm pro-choice and if my mate was to have an abortion it would still be a very painful and tragic event, some people are pro choice yet would never personally have an abortion, just my 2 centsSean - Winchester, Va
EV has commented many times in the past that he's a psychic...and he clearly references "all five horizons", possibly referencing different planes of thought or places where our mind can go. Whoever this girl is, he loves her body and soul.
Though the sheets of empty canvas and sheets of clay point to pygmalion notions, the rest of the song indicates that this girl is someone out there he knows really exists and he's trying tell her down the fifth horizon.

He believes that she is a "star in someone else's sky". Sounds like he either has really met her or waiting for the day that he will find her. Whoever she is, I believe she has had a dramatic influence on his life and music.
Poet1987_jlb - Horsham, Pa
I believe that this song is about a break up because in a live performance Eddie Vedder repeats, "We belong together" at the end of the song. Very emotional song.Matthew - Louisville, Ky
I believe it could be about a birth? He watched his baby being born and then he/she passed.Katie - Lansing, Mi
this is way more than music.
this turns my world to black
this text is tattooed over all my stuff, even my skin, and my inside - i may have lost you, but we still have a beautifu life in this sky
WHY cant it just be as before
Apple North - Clouds, Ia
It can't possibly be about death, it is about someone who left him for someone else, and he is frustrated because she was so unappreciative of what he'd done for her ("and all I ever taught her was everything".) This is made clear by the line "I know someday you'll have a beautiful life, I know you'll be a star in somebody else's sky but why can't it be mine?". It seems he is destroying pictures of her to try to forget and remove painful memories ("All the pictures have all been washed in black.") This is similar to Green Day's "Whatsername" released years later in that sense.Brad - Lexington, Ky
This song is like about someone who has lost somone by death, altough he sings that "someday youll have a beautiful life"Karl - Tallinn, Estonia
When I first heard this song it was one of the best beats I'd ever heard. I really didnt listen to the words... I didnt need to. That haunting beat and metaphoric words was enough to state the obvious. This guys world was BLACK! No matter what pain life had crapped on you, this song identified with it.
16 years later my 21 year marriage ended. As I'm going through the older CD's, I pop PJ's best in and played Black. I had to sit down and listen to an old song that identifies with pain. This time I wanted to know the exact words to one of the most moving songs of all time. After reading the words there is no doubt in my mind that Eddie is referring to losing the love of his life. To have the love of you life leave is one of lifes most painful events. When you take down the pictures and pull them out of the frames there is a sheet of BLACK left there. To see the innocense of children laughing and not be able to appreciate it because your world is BLACK is painful. To know one day the person you love the most, will be the star in someone else's sky and not yours is painful. You let them go because you love them more than anything and you want them to be happy, even if its not with you. Thanks PJ.
Art - Goodyear, Az
I went to a concert in 1993 and Eddie said that it was about a personal relationship and that it was painfull and that he would never explain what the song was about.Angie - Bluffton, Md
Massive, beautiful, heart wrenching. At a time in my life that was very black.... Had so many different meanings, to all of us who loved it for what ever reason. References to my life the similarities were too profound. Turned my world to black"..such a powerful line. Years after, this song still evokes many many memories, and still is, one powerful rock ballad of all time.Aroha - Sydney, Australia
This would have to be my favourite pearl jam song. this song has been referred to in many different ways,each to their own. For me, this is song represents inspiration or that "pick me up" when things may seem all too hard. Eddie is one of those unasumming poets to which kids of all ages and those now "adults" who followed the rage in the early 90's can look to for inspirationCraig - Brisbane, Australia
Reminds me of those rainy days where they just drizzle and you go outside. it is mostly cloudy but there is a tiny spot of sun in the sky. you look at your watch and it says 5:30 pm. it starts to rain harder, and the clear spot keeps getting smaller but doesn't vanish. you were sitting down on the curb of a sewer hole, but now you stand up, and start walking to nowhere. the rain continues but the clear spot is not going away. It starts to bother you that the spot won't go away. you try to ignore it, as you think it is ridiculous being bothered by a lone clear spot in a dreary arsenic sky. It's not going away. Then you realize something. It's just a metaphor. It represents something that doesn't fit in a picture. as the picture changes, the spot gets even more odd. You wonder how that fits into your life. Just then you hear a honk. It sounds more agravating than an alarm clock but you can't think of that right now. you have to get away from this car. But that's when you find your walked onto a freeway with no way out. You realize the metaphor is you to the freeway.you don't belong there. come to think of it you don't think you've ever fit in to anything. instead of seeing your individuality as a good thing, you decide to end your life right there.
that's just how I think of it.
Matt - Houston, Tx
"All five horizons" refers to all five senses, I think.

This song can be compared to The Rolling Stones "Paint It Black".
Will - Henderson, Nc
GREAT SONG- To me, it is talking about someone who puts everything they have into something (whether it is a piece of art, or a relationship, but in the end something is missing- even if everyone tells you it is there, you know it isn't-
you want it to be so bad, but you can't lie to yourself
Jimmy` - Philly, Pa
This is my ideas on the song. I think most on this page had a lot of it right and I'll be repeating some of your thoughts and comments to make it my own. Here goes line by line.

sheets of empty canvas, untouched sheets of clay
(As stated below, these were hobbies he kept and was now to broken hearted to continue doing them. He was finding no joy in the simple things that once brought him pleasure.)

untouched sheets of clay
were laid spread out before me as her body once did
(This just means that they were intimate and he was remembering times when they were together. It also could very well reference her being a virgin and him taking that from her, either or are good)


all five horizons revolved around her soul
as the earth to the sun
(He lived for her completely and everything he did was because of her, even breathing, his life was hers)

now the air i tasted and breathed has taken a turn
(As stated above his whole life revolved around her and nothing he did seemed the same or meaningfull without her)

and all i taught her was everything
i know she gave me all that she wore
(He saying he gave ever part of himself to her and showed her all that we was and he knows she did the same for him. Also think to the song "Jeremy" were he says his "mommy wouldnt wear" same sort of thing, but the opposite meaning. In "BLACK" she was all about him, in "Jeremy" she wanted nothing to do with him, or wouldn't "wear" him)

and now my bitter hands shake beneath the clouds
of what was everything
(Now hes just screwed up over the whole ordeal and everything that it meant in his life)

all the pictures had all been washed in black, tattooed everything
(My interpretation here is this: He took all her pictures and or pictures of them together and destroyed them. Probably by black paint being that he did reference art materials in the beginning of the song so he probably had the paint handy. Tattooed everything probably means that it left a big mess and there was black paint permenately on the floor or wherever he destroyed the pictures and also could be black paint still on his hands like a tattoo on skin)

i take a walk outside, i'm surrounded by some kids at play
i can feel their laughter, so why do i sear
(He goes for a walk and can see kids playing and laughing and having a good time, but he's having a hard time looking on the brighter side of things and thats why he's still burning or searing inside regaurdless of the good things around him)

and twisted thoughts that spin round my head
i'm spinning, oh, i'm spinning
(As he's out walking and can't find the good in life near those kids he's having all kinds of bad thoughts and cant get the ordeal out of his mind)

and now my bitter hands cradle broken glass
of what was everything
(Now he's just left with nothing, but memories of once was and it's all broken around him)

all the pictures had all been washed in black, tattooed everything...
all the love gone bad, turned my world to black
tattooed all i see, all that i am, all i'll ever be...
(The first sentence is the same as I wrote about the pictures before. The second sentence is just the love went bad, turned his world crappy or black and "tattooed all I see" means it's changed his perspective permenatly and all he sees reminds him of her and the love lost. It's also changed everything he is and ever will be Permenatly like a tattoo)

i know someday you'll have a beautiful life, i know you'll be a star
in somebody else's sky, but why
why, why can't it be, why can't it be mine
(This last part is all self explanitory)

Like I said I took some of the best ideas on her that I agreed with and kinda added them together with my own ideas. Everyone on her gets credit if I used you words. Thanks guys and I hope this makes some since.

-Jordan
Jordan - Cincinnati, Oh
Personally in my opinion Pearl Jam's best song and quite possible on eof the best songs of the 90's. Maybe even ever. The harmonizing between the keyboard,vocals,and guitar during the creshendo is amazingAustin - Smallsville, New England
I read the comments people made about this song. I think i can help people understand what this song is about. When he describes sheets of empty canvess and untouched sheets of clay, he is talking about art that has not been put upon yet. a painting or pottery clean or unstarted. the person in this song had a tatoo of his girl on his chest. just like the song footsteps descibes. He was so up set about the loss of this realationship he had to go back to the tatoo parlor and have them blacken out the whole tatoo, so he wouldnt have to look at it any more. when he says he can feel kids laughter so why do i sear( which means to burn inside) meaning why cant i move on . thats why the song is called black because thats all he sees on his chest noew tatooed everything Its not rocket science. its not about abortion. its about a guy that will never move on.Fatty - Houston, Ut
This song is definitely what the lyrics plainly say, i.e. love lost for whatever reason.
Speaking personally, this song really hits hard, as I lost my wife five years ago to cancer, and I remember saying to my family immediately after going home from the funeral service that the world had been changed from color to black and white.
I know all too well what Eddie was talking about on this, his masterpiece.
Oldpink - New Castle, In
Pearl Jam has put out some good songs over the years, but this one is their best, period.
Also, am I the only one who caught Eddie's tip of the hat to Pink Floyd with the guitar playing through a simulated cheap transistor radio speaker, as Floyd did at the very beginning for "Wish You Were Here?"
I happen to know that Eddie is a huge Floyd fan, so it only makes sense.
Oldpink - New Castle, In
Okay, poor Eddie lost his love. That's all it is. "I take a walk outside, I'm surrounded by some kids at play..." Don't over analyze that part- the world can be happy and perfect around you, but with a broken heart, your thoughts are twisted and things are distorted... like your heart is in a constant riot inside while the rest of the world is peaceful.... that's what I think Eddie tries to convey in this song. He'll start with major chords, then switch keys to match the changing mood and lyrics.

But whyyhyy, whyyhyy, whyyyyaahaaahhyyyy can't it be, ah can't it beeeeeeeee meeeeeeeheeeeeeahhhaaaayahahayyyy...... *whooo*.... :)
Ashley - San Francisco, Ca
This song has had much meaning to me, personally since it first appeared on TEN back in 1991. I was a freshman in High School and it stuck with me through many important life-events. It was played as the last song at my Senior Prom (at my request) and it was also the first song I danced to as a married woman. I play it at least twice a week and have plans for this to also play at my funeral. The first time I heard Eddie sing it in person, I just bawled...so emotional...isn't that what music should be all about? Raw emotions that we can let flow....this song is sanity for me.Maria - Grand Haven, Mi
it seems like everyone else has a different opinion than i do but to me it seems like it might be about a girl losing her virginity to her boyfriend: "untouched sheets of clay were spread out before me/as her body once did" but then later she leaves him and he feels betrayed: "all i taught her was everything" "i know someday you'll be a star in somebody else's sky/but why can't it be mine?"Dylan - Kalispell, Mt
i consider this song as a magnum opus....
a perfect tragedic one...it seems as if the boyfriend was ditched by his bitch girlfriend....but i dont think its about incest and abuse.....the TEN version got no guitar solos at all....but yet the Piano has made the song sound too good....best.....and when PEARL JAM perform it live...the guitar solo is wonderful....and when Eddie sings like " WE BELONG TOGETHER" i feel like as if the boyfriend still seeks a way back to her....the song's so heart touching....i've never attended Pearl Jam concert but i hope someday i will see them live...
Raygun - Kathmandu, Nepal
whatever anyone says or has a view on this song,i just know one fact that this song rocks.there can't be a song more beautiful than this.i can listen to this song all day and night with repeat on.and what a voice does eddie wedder has.wish i could have that.he's the supreme of grunge.but a bit underestimated and underrated.one line of the song-"i know someday u'll have a beautiful life,i know u'll be a star in the somebody else's sky,but why,why,why cant it be mine" is the line of the song on which my life depends..most terrific song of the century.only a few could possibly understand the beauty of this song..those are the fortunate ones.I AM.Pankaj - Shimla, India
This song could be about one or a combination of a few different elements. On the topic of the song being about abortion, it is very possible that certain parts of the song could allude to this. Eddie is pro-choice and always has been. However, Eddie's girlfriend also had an abortion when he was younger. He has stated that he was just too young and not yet capable of raising a child. He also mentions that he felt that this was the right decision for him at the time, yet was still a very difficult one. But being that abortion had been something important in Eddie's life at some point, it is very possible that this could be included in some of these lyrics. For the most part, I think that the song is mainly about the loss of someone close to him that he loves. It seems like commentary on a painful break-up and the feeling of loss now that this person is no longer in his life.Mary - Vancouver, Wa
I love this song sooo much. I have decided that it will be my song that is played at my funeral. I'm not real sure of the meaning of it, but it rocks & Eddie Vedder is THE best!!!!!Kristi Semler - Brisbane, Australia
If anyone has been a victim of sex abuse when they were a kid will look at this song in a different, dark way. Not to turn the world on its ear about the song or to berrate Eddie in any way, but the feeling I get is NOT the feeling everyone else gets from reading the posts. Just my $.02 Read the lyrics again, but in different size shoe.Eric - Manassas, Va
I KNOW SOME DAY YOU'LL HAVE A BEAUTIFUL LIFE-YOU'LL BE A STAR IN SOMEONE ELSE'S SKY! This is odd: but when I was in 2nd or third grade my dad gave me a violent beating with the belt and I sat in my room, crying saying these very words to myself in the mid-60's. To me, this seemed supernatural these very word, but who told him that-God or the Devil??? I had been to an Elvis Presley movie and Elvis told this teenage girl who had it rough that just because the first 18 years of your life were bad, it does not mean the next 18 years will be that way, too! Freaked out, man!!Tony - Toledo, Oh
I bought the Pearl Jam Ten album on the way to go sking. My friend blew me off when I went to pick him up so I drove 3 hours by myself listening to the album. I decided to buy a walkman and play the album while I skied. You may not think the slow melodic rhythm of 'Black' may not be a good song to ski to, but I found myself euphoric, sking very fast and taking long turns, catching air, landing and making a couple quick turns and again cruising fast, making big turns. I think the same vibe would be nice when boarding down the mountain. Black is my all time favorite song to ski to, even when I ski with other people, listening to the song makes me ski off alone, getting inside my own head, cruisin. At the end of the run, when the timing is right, I seem to be relaxed and mellow.Rawson - Chico, Ca
brilliant song - an australian band 'DR. ELEPHANT' used to an awesome cover of this live in broome west australia back in 2000- 2001 almost a superior version actually. (big call!)Paul Marlo - Perth, Australia
This song is quite simply the greatest Alternative Rock song of all time. I first heard it as a kid, like 6 years old and never really could appreciate its greatness. I heard it again when I was 19 and was totally blown away and able to form a clear thought as to what this song really means. I can listen to anything but I just cant seem to listen to this song anymore I strangely get sad and I dont know why. Everyone who is making this song out to be about abortions is perverting a beautiful classic and is dead wrong, why would Eddie write a song about the pain of an abortion when he is clearly pro-choice? This song is indeed about losing the absolute love of your life and being totally unable to cope with it. A very heart breaking song but thats what makes it great, it never fails to get a reaction out of you.Tyler - Bradenton, Fl
I am a music lover, not just rock, but all music and this song is simply the greatest song ever written.perfect, eddie vedder is one of the best singers of all time. It is without question about him loosing the love of his life. I saw him sing this in pittsburgh in 03 he was crying as he sang it, i still get chills. i got in a fight in a bar over this song a guy skipped it so he could play blink 182. please, The 1000 dollar fine for assault was worth every penny!Taber - Buffalo, Ny
Sheets of empty canvas..... To me this shows the absolute despair and depression of the loss, so much so that the subject cannot do his favorite hobbies, that anything he does reminds him of his loss.....five horizons revolved around her soul As the earth to the sun....This woman was his world, everything he sensed (five horizons) was about her....Now the air I tasted....all of his senses are dulled...Ooh, and all I taught her was everything Ooh, I know she gave me all that she wore....Both of them gave their best to the relationship and he understands that, but it wasn't enough, that is what he doesn't understand....And now my bitter hands chafe beneath the clouds Of what was everything.
Oh, the pictures have all been washed in black, tattooed everything....Alliterations of how his whole world is crushed, he doesn't know how to go on, the pain just won't go away and he cant understand how the love went sour in the first place, everything is tattooed/tainted with memories that now must be forgotten.... take a walk outside I'm surrounded by some kids at play
I can feel their laughter, so why do I sear?......something so cute, pure and innocent that should cheer anybody up, makes him mad at the world for this kind of pain.....Oh, and twisted thoughts that spin round my head
I'm spinning, oh, I'm spinning...suicidal and homicidal thoughts that won't leave his brain...How quick the sun can drop away.....reiterates the suprise and suddenness of the breakup....All the love gone bad turned my world to black Tattooed all I see, all that I am, all I'll be... yeah...shows the despair that comes, the inability to see a way out of the pain, no hope for a future love as good as this, the good memories bring back the pain, the pain reminds him of lost time, and the knowledge that he can not love again.....I know someday you'll have a beautiful life, I know you'll be a sun in somebody else's sky, but why Why, why can't it be, why can't it be mine...Just shows the pure love he has for the exlover, no ill will, even in pain he wants the best for her but can't understand why or when the love went sour, he had no idea that there was a problem and sees that the love is still possible from his point of view.
Dean - Omaha, Ne
I agree with Natasha, but I think that he could have tried to be with her but was rejected for whatever reason. I doubt it has to do with a father being sexually attracted to his daughter. Eddie has stated often how personal the song is and once said in concert about the song "hope none of [the audience] relate."John - Hendersonville, Nc
This thread on the Pearl Jam message board says it all... http://forums.pearljam.com/showthread.php?t=255379Justin - Neoga, Il
I would say that he was never with her, that he only wanted her, and he had the opportunity, maybe he still has, but she is too distant. He cannot reach her, but he is convinced that they should be together. The empty surfaces waiting to be coloured with their love suddenly drown in black colour only, and only thing left from his dreams the broken glass. The pleasure of the playing children only makes his heart harder, because there is this trace of the hopelessness tattooed on everything. And of course that his sun is clouded...Natasha - Oostende, Belgium
I recently formed an interpretation of this song, based on an experience as it related to the song. I think that he is saying that he once had a love with someone (His wife or girlfriend) and that there is someone else in the picture. Most of the song is referencing the person in his life currently- "I know all she gave me is all that she wore", so basically saying that she gave what she could to him but it wasnt enough and all the memories they have had turned to black. Also the canvas and clay reference, to me, seems like he sees an opportunity to create something else in his life to fill the void. Finally, I think that the line "I know someday you'll live a beautiful life. I know you'll be the sun in somebody elses sky, but why can't it be mine?" is directed to the other person that is in his life. Its like he wants to leave what he has that was once great but now isn't but he recognizes that he cant because of all that the other person has put into it, even though he isnt happy.Val - Ogden, Ut
still love it!Paul Marlo - Perth, Australia
I heard this song over and over.And read the lyric...well confusing u know...I really think eddie wrote this lyric abt his old time love.And one of them left each other.Thats the main theme of the all sad songs.But "Black" is the song where Eddie proved him self different from others.He putted some doubt to the listeners mind.Something like"All five horizons revolved around her soul".Guys u can imagine so many things just looking to a cloudy sky as well as this song.
Make no mistake: I actually like this song. It's catchy, sad to listen to, and I like the singer's style. But I have to shake my head at those people who try to read something profound into the lyrics. There's nothing profound about it, it's just first version of the song "Last kiss".Be true to yourself.
Tapu102 - Dhaka, United States
The song is most definitely about a break up. The love of my life broke up with me in 1995 and I must have listened to this song 10,000 times over the next 3 years in gettting over that heartbreak.
"I know someday you'll have a beautiful life, I know you'll be a star, in somebody elses sky, but why, why can't it be mine!" were words I definitely took to heart!
Chris - Las Vegas, United States
i've seen the video of the "unplugged version" of the song,after the song,vedder casually but clearly says that:"i think u can get an aboartion"- he sounds pritty pro about it.sorry live freak, by the way,i think in many ways the unplugged version is much better than the recorded studio 1,its more raw and meaningfulTalha - Lahore, Pakistan
For the love of God people, the songs not about abortion or a dead girl friend. Its about losing the love of your life and knowing its YOUR fault. Live Freak from beirut hit it on the head. The only comment i would add would be about the line "I'm surrounded by some kids at play I can feel their laughter, so why do I sear?". When he see's the kids it reminds him of what he won't have with this women that he thought he would have, a family. Another reminder of what he has LOST.

Anyway, this is one of the best songs of all time.

Robert in LA
Robert - Los Angeles, Ca
I think the blank canvas, and untouched sheets of clay may be just that, artist tools. Perhaps it's his way of saying the loss of her love has left him inept, unable to create art (thus the bitter hands chafing). I agree with another poster that the five horizons are the five senses. His whole world revolved around her. "I can hear their laughter, so why do I sear?" seems to mean that when he's crashing inside, not even the innocent laughter of children can make him smile. Nothing can get through and ease his pain. "I know someday you'll have a beautiful life, I know you'll be the SUN in someone else's sky, but why, why can't it be mine?!" This obviously means that she will find someone else, and he will be her everything, and Eddie, in the way that he sings it, seems to say he WANTS her happy, but it's killing him that it will be another man that will be her love.Jenn - Cincinnati, Oh
does he say sun or star in somebody elses skies? it sounds more like sun to meJoseph - Canton, Ga
yeah i didnt even know aaron lewis done a version of this song until i went to his acoustic concert last saturday and he sung it. it was awesome!! if you havent heard his version check it out its on the same level as eddie. beautiful song. the best song they ever didJoseph - Canton, Ga
I thought this song was a reference to theme of Pygmalion, the sculptor who made a woman who became independent and left him. It is a theme used in many stories and movies. Try listening to the lyrics and see if it makes sense to you. When a man usually older mentors a younger woman in the ways of love, he may not expect her to grow beyond him. His efforts to stop this growth can bring destruction to his dreams.Peter - Haverill, Ma
OK I think the abortion theory and the "father in love with her kid" are too extreme. Really I'm pretty sure that this song is about a love... ok so ummm we have an older guy with a teen ager lets see, a 23 year old guy with a 16 year old maybe? "All I though her was everything" ... him teaching her about life... "I know she gave me all that she wore" her giving herself fully for the first time. "I see some kids at play" he thinks of her as his little girl... "I know soem day youll have a beautiful life I know youll be a star in some buddy elses sky but why cant it be mine" OK so this verse lets us get an image that for him this relation ship was really important compared to the others and He felt that this was it, and for her, it was important too but She was just starting with relationships and had more too learn this means beeing with more guys... In conclucion I think that she broke up with him because she felt in love at first and gave him all but then she realised thta it was an ilusion, but for him it was so much serious...Elisabeth - Punta Arenas, Chile
I believe "Black" by Pearl Jam has a much darker and uglier meaning. I love the song, but I believe it is about a father that is physically in-love with his daughter. I don't think Eddie Vedder is the father in the story, obviously; but i think he's expressing the pain and heartache associated with sexual abuse.
In the first verses, he's explaining how everything in his life revolved around his daughter. "were laid out before me as her body once did." describes how he is reminded of the heinous act he committed. "now the air i tasted and breathed has taken a turn." describes how even the air he breathes is changed in his mind. every lyric in this song can be traced back to the horrors of child abuse.
Barbie - New Orleans, La
I think it's quite clear that the song is about a breakup and not about someone dying. If it was about someone dead, he wouldn't be saying: "I know someday you'll have a beautiful life, I know you'll be a star in somebody else's sky...".
It's clearly about someone who's still alive and has the potential of getting on with their lives without him.

It's an incredible song, and each and every time I listen to it after a breakup I feel as if it describes my emotions very accurately.
Dayna - La, United States
woah this song is awesome, went to pearl jam 2 nights ago and they were super super good my god what am i thinking ...theyre the BEST!! love this song peace outEddie - Melbourne, Australia
I feel this is about guilt. The guilt of using someone, and realizing afterwards there if no way to make amends. No matter how awful he feels about it, no matter how "Black" everything seems, it won't change what he did.Jimmy - Graniteville, Ri
"Sheets of empty canvas. Untouched sheets of clay." I believe that could be symbolizing the fact that he feels he has to start over again. What else would you do with a blank canvas or some clay but make something out of it. But he doesn't want to ---> in the same line he makes the reference to his girl. If he had her still he wouldn't have to start over.Jeff - Trafford, Pa
What about Eddie attacking a camping group who were singing it????????Steve - Los Angeles, Ca
It's about a loved one that has died. "Sheets of empty canvas..untouched sheets of clay" describes how theyres something missing. "were laid spread out before me as her body once did" describes how she used to be there. "i know she gave me all that she wore" meant there was a very close relationship between them. [Im just skipping some lyrics.] "and now my bitter hands chafe beneath the clouds" describes how hes falling apart from this loss. "i can feel their laughter so why do i sear" describes how hes hurt how he sees the kids laughing and that he cant be like that with his loved on that passed away. "all the pictures have all been washed in black tatooed everything..all the love gone bad turned my world to black..tatooed all i see..all that i am..all that i'll be" means that this has made such a great impact on him that he cannot take it and the things that he used to love are fading away and becoming painful to think about. theres some of the song. ohh yeah, that why cant it be mine sun thing describes how he wants her back so bad but he cant have her. I heard this on the radio and as soon as i heard it, i just had to get the CD, literally. Im listening to it right now and its so emotional. It gives me chills. I love this song, its such a great song and Eddie is such a mastermind at lyrics. Pearl Jam rocks.Lindsey - A City, France
I think the song refers to eddie taking a girls virginity. No one had been there so "empty canvas" "untouched sheets" She gave him all she wore because she had never been through the experience.He thinks of her as niave because it was her first and when he sees the kids a play he is thinking of how innocent they are. Eddie is denied his love one way or another and his plans are now just broken glass. No matter what the meaning really was, the first time heard this song i had been denied an unbelievable love who went back to someone she had been with for a long time. When Eddie sang the words "i know one day youll have a beautiful life, i know youll be a star. in somebodys elses life,o why? why? WHY???? cant it be, why cant it be mine??????? YEAH!!!! i balled all over the place, and listened to the song over and over agian, ironiacally her middle name was Starr, and those lyrics continue to send chills down my spine.
-Derek, NC
Derek - Choco, Nc
We will never know what its about and shouldnt even try, its his pain and should remain his. Eddie is a lyrical mastermind and always will be.Brett - Eddie Haskels Basement, Ca
Simply amazing song. My favourite Pearl Jam song. The lyrics are so great, only bettered by how they're sung. I always have to sing along when I listen to it, it's just too good.Dev01d - Wollongong, Australia
I think Patrick from Honolulu,HI was dead on about meaning of the song. From a person who is going thru that exact thing right now it's surprising how this song and Patrick's interpretation of "Black" describes exactly how I feel right now. I have known this song for a long time and how powerful and emotional this song is. "Black" is my favorite song and Pearl Jam my favorite band. The song "Black" describes so much how I feel right now that I just can not listen to the song anymore;refuse to. I just stopped listening to my all-time favorite song because It just describes exactly how I feel ,and I am tryin' so hard to get thru this. Every time I hear "Black" now, I just turn it down and refuse to listen to it, but as Patrick said it does help to know that I am not the only peson dealing with losing someone you loved so much that it just tears your whole world apart. The pain is so unbearable but knowing this song states so eloquently and precisely what I going thru makes a difference during at such a challenging time.Prissy - Raleigh, Nc
I am reading "Five Against One", the (slighty outdated) biography of Pearl Jam. In the book, it explains how Eddie is strongly pro-choice on abortion. This stance of abortion could be because a girlfriend of his had one.Elliot - St. Louis, Mo
Eddie Vedder won't let anyone else sing his songs. He becomes furious. He must have really seen something in Aron Lewis to alow him to sing Black.Randall - Donalsonville, Ga
Like Aldana said it's about a break up, but she didn't leave him, he leave her..He doesnt still love her but she is still a very special person for him, so he suffers because he would like to be everything just like it was before.
"..Now the air I tasted and breathed has taken a turn.."
Now, he doesn't feel the same and he can't do anything about it, its just how he feels.

"..I know someday you'll have a beautiful life,I know you'll be a star in somebody else's sky.."
He knows someday she will find someone, someone who really love her, someone who could gave her what he can't give her now.

So he would like to love her like he once did...she gave everything but he changed.."..and twisted thoughts that spin round my head.."
"..How quick the sun can drop away.."
"..my pictures have all been washed in black.."
It's like he look at her pictures but it's like nothing..it's like a black picture..
"..Sheets of empty canvas, untouched sheets of clay.."
Like someone said, maybe, He/she could be his/her first love.

He constantly talk about how he's changed,"..she gave everything..",It's like: I'm sorry it's not about you, it's me..This isnt your fault..I don't feel the same and I would like to love like before!
"..but why, why, why can't it be,oh,can't it be mine?.."

Sorry for my english.
Saludos Aldana!!
Gonzalo - Bsas, Argentina
First of all I agree with all the comments about this song, it is flat out awesome. Secondly I just found this website, and this website is freaking sweet. I have always interpreted songs and been interested in seeing what others think about them, and my friends are not really that into it. They tell me I over analyze stuff. Well now I have found a home! I agree there is a lick borowed from Zeppelin's Ten Years Gone, an astute observation by E from vancover. Also Aaron Lewis's rendidtion is worth checking out because it too rocks. Long live Pearl Jam!Scott - Canton, Oh
I just heard the Aaron Lewis version, and it is incredible. Almost as good as the original. I suggest you all go listen to it. The way Eddie sounds during the climax of the song is so moving I almost cry. I have a close emotional bond to this song...Elliot - St. Louis, Mo
I believe it is about a breakup or separation with a woman. The emotion in this song is amazing, i never thought it could be topped till i heard it on the MTV Unplugged. That has to be the best rendition o the song ever done. Vedder sings with such emotion in all of his songs, i especially love I am Mine and Thumbing my WayMatt - Mokena, Il
when he says at the end why cant it be mine i think that he had a kid and the mother aborted it.Hillary - Irving, Tx
para mi esta cancion es sobre una ruptura, pero no es ella quien lo dejo a el, sino al reves, que el dejo de amarla, pero que a pesar de ser el quien la dejo, se siente vacio, porque perdio su horizonte, porque no quisiera sentirse como se siente pero no puede evitar lo que le pasa, por eso la estrofa final: i know same day...El sabe que ella algun dia va a encontrar a alguien que le pueda dar lo que el en este momento no puede, pero a pesar de eso el quisiera amarla, porque la quiere como persona, el quisiera que ella siguiera siendo su amor. Es tan claro el sentido. Porque en toda la letra en ningun momento habla de que ella cambio, sino por el contrario, el que experimento los cambios fue el, el sabe que ella le dio todo, entiendo que ella no tiene culpa de su forma de sentir, simplemente dejo de amarla y eso cambio su mundo.Aldana - Buenos Aires
correction for joe from chicago- you cant really support the fact that this song is about a tragedy with the fact that "last kiss" is too, because eddie vedder didnt write last kiss. It was originally by J. Frank Wilson & the Caveliers, it was a number 2 hit for them in 1964, it was more of a doo-wop (however you spell that) 50s style song. both are amazing songs though, and i think black was about a tragedy anyways.Bob - Olympia, Wa
I wouldn't even consider comparing Vedder to Stapp, and Weiland has a larger ranger, but lacks a personal touch (not to say i dont like STP or VR). Greatest song ever written.Elliot - St. Louis, Mo
As someone already said, Patrick from Honolulu gets to the bottom of the question and his interpretation is most acurate! I just want to leave a note regarding the line "Ooh, I know she gave me all, that she wore" that I believe not to me a metaphor for knowledge as someone posted but instead a metaphor for the girl giving herself totaly to him. By giving "all, that she wore" she gave herself completly, she stood "naked" as she showed him her true colours, she concealed nothing. I hope I explained myself correctly. This is one of my favourite songs ever, and one of the best of Pearl Jam.Isaac - Lisboa, Portugal
I would definitly say this song tells a story of a man losing the love of his life. For some reason, I do not feel that the line "im surrounded by some kids that play.." is talking about abortion. I think that he is at a playground, noticing all the children playing and is saddened by it because it reminds him of the life he can never have with the woman he once loved. Plus, at the end of the song (and the most powerful part of the song) when he says, "I know someday you'll have a beautiful life, I know you'll be a star, in somebody else's sky... why?" Right there it goes to show that he lost a g/f or lover and that now that she has left him, will someday be with another man, have a new life, or is already in heaven ("somebody else's sky") no matter how much he wishes she would be with him again.Jo Jo - Philly, Pa
I always assumed it was a breakup song, but the abortion thing makes a lot of sense. I always wondered about those lines, "I take a walk outside. I'm surrounded by some kids at play..." So maybe an abortion led to a breakup? It seems pretty obvious he's upset. Shakes his hands in the air out of frustration, anguish and regret. Cradles broken glass (maybe he smashes something in his confused rage). Twisted thoughts, all the things that have happened and all that he's done. Well, that's just my opinion. I love Pearl Jam, by the way.Nick - Newburyport, Ma
This definitely Pearl Jams best song ever. There is so much emotion put into the song it is unbelievable. I haven't heard it, but i would assume that the Staind version is also good, seeing as Aaron Lewis puts a lot of emotion into his music, too. An incredible song. An incredible band, what else is there to say? Pearl Jam (and Staind, too) rock!Elliot - St. Louis, Mo
Pearl Jam borrowed a riff from 'Ten Years Gone' by Led Zeppelin for 'Black'.

Still, amazing song.
E - Vancouver, Canada
The song black is about Eddie Vedder's girlfriend who dies of cancer. It was originally called E minor Ballad before it became "Black" (due to the fact that cancer is usually a black or whatnot). This is whats its about and that is a fact.Wil - West Palm, Fl
Did anyone ever hear this played in Philly one year? Vedder gets up to the chorus then just holds out the microphone for the audience. Everybody there sings the whole chorus and it sounds so sweet. I've only heard recordings but i wish I was there.Dave - Philadelphia, Pa
This song isn't about a girl, but rather about his real father. The story, as I understand it (which should clear up several PJ songs) is that Eddies mom walked into his room one day when he was 13, and said something like "Your real father died a few weeks ago, i thought you should know" Only knowing his stepfather as his father sent a flood of emotions. If you notice his lyrics they aren't complimentary to his mom. Black is a song eddie never liked to do live, although it was performed often.Johnnyg - Raleigh, Nc
Black is a void of color so can be used to define a void of emotion, this is why i bevlive he says everything was "washed in black"

Just thought id add that.
Steven - Harrison, Oh
This song sounds to me like a break up song.
The guy in this break up makes it sounds outragously horrible for him so I think maybe they broke up because of his over obsessiveness with her, I back that up with the fact that he says, "all I taught her was everything" showing he might be a little more angery at her than the tone of the song makes us belive. "and twisted thoughts that spin around my head" hmmmm he seems a little crazy now too doesnt he?
Steven - Harrison, Oh
hey, just listening to black now! the song is the most powerful and hair raising song i have ever heard! ive had it for a few months an not fully understood the whole song, i knew it was about extraordinary pain, and a loss! only today i decided to try the net for the meaning of the song an came across this website. i think patrick from honolulu hit the nail on the head. cheers for that mate.Michael - Belfast, Ireland
This song reminds me of Led Zeppelin's Ten Years Gone.Ashley - Moncton, Canada
Great song. One of my favorites from Pearl Jam, and most likely their best song. To me, it is clearly about a relationship that has ended. "And now my bitter hands cradle broken glass, of what was everything..."Andrew - St. Louis, Mo
This song appears to be about pain. Most likely about the pain of a lost love. The possibility of this song being about abortion would mean that the lyrics were extremely metaphorical. Although they (I believe) are slightly metaphorical I think they are a little more black and white then what some may believe. This could possibly be why their record company wanted to make this song into a hit because the emotions portrayed in the song are emotions that anyone can relate to. Not to depreciate the song. It's absolutely amazing. There is such an intense amount of emotion in Eddie's voice. The lyrics are vivid, picturesque. I've cried while listening to this song! But anyway, as for my interpretation of the lyrics' 'Sheets of empty canvas, untouched sheets of clay' I believe the empty canvas is referring to a feeling of being uninspired without her. This explains why the canvas is empty. The clay is intended to create a visual of a dried up love. - 'All five horizons revolved around her soul' As the earth to the sun' This seems to be creating an idea of her significance in his life. The horizons represent levels of his 'universe' that revolved around her. - 'Oh, I know she gave me all that she wore' Perhaps he feels he was an emotional outlet for her. - 'Oh, the pictures have all been washed in black, tattooed everything' I think by pictures he doesn't literally mean pictures, but memories. His memories have been tainted by his loss. They are tattooed bc he feels the memories will never again be what they once were. This is simply a beautiful song.Leyla - Easton , Pa
In 1992 I dumped my high-school sweetheart and months later she sent this song typed on a flamed edge piece if paper. It is my favorite PJ song and i belive it is about lost love and that s--t feeling can be felt by both parties.Damon - Baldwin Park, Ca
Vedder sings this song with so much emotion. People compare his singing to that of Scott Weiland and Stapp, but Vedder is clearly the most skilled. This song is the proof.Drew - Kansas City, Mo
What Black is actually about:

Pearl Jam is the band's turf statement, a personal declaration of the importance of music over idolatry. But the burden of Pearl Jam's popularity has fallen most solidly on Vedder, who spent much of his off-season wondering about the effects of being in such a high-profile band. Vedder had -- uncharacteristically -- even gotten into a barroom fight defending the band. (In a Waits-like voice, he offers a snippet of an unrecorded song that he has written about it: "Gave myself a black eye/To show off just how I was feeling.") And one night, while sitting out on a deserted coastal sand bluff, contemplating life after the death of a friend, guitarist Stefanie Sargent of 7 Year Bitch, he heard strange voices coming from the hill behind him. They were singing "Black," the fragile song that to Vedder had come to symbolize the overcommercialization of the band. He'd fought to keep it from getting overplayed, didn't want a video made of the song. Vedder hiked out of the bushes to ask the surprised hikers not to sing the song. Months later, he still remembers their odd and concerned looks as they faced the angst-filled author of the song.
________________________

Rolling Stone 10/28/93
Five Against the World
by Cameron Crowe
Isadora - Austin, Tx
I believe the 5 Horizons that revolved around 'her' soul are the 5 senses: taste, touch, sight, smell, and sound.

Another good site for Pearl Jam song interpretations is: http://www.theskyiscrape.com/
Thomas - Chicago, Il
Come on folks, this is obviously a song about a female companion that has left him for what ever the reason may have been. If you pay attention to the lyrics you'll find these are words you'd never use to make a reference to a child! "Laid spread out before me as her body once did". "Bitter hands". This is not a song about a lost child or an unwanted abortion. Let's get real here. Whether it's factual or fictional, there's no doubt of what it's about.Charles - Galveston, Tx
Pearl Jam: Black

Love is a feeling everyone has felt at one time or another. Merriam Webster defines love as "strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties." Having such strong feelings for someone, and then having that person taken away, can destroy someone's world--and even inspire a powerful and emotional song. From Pearl Jam's 1992 released album, "Ten," comes a story of this with the song entitled "Black."

The lyrics to the song are symbolic and tell the story of how the writer, Eddie Vetter, came to be in the state of mind he was in. Starting out with his "sheets of empty canvas, untouched sheets of clay," he felt pure and clean. The transition of the story brings him to tell how everything "turned to black." Eddie feels guilt for the loss of his loved one. Twice he refers to his bitter hands; Here he is showing that he feels it was by his own doing that she has left him. It is also apparent that it wasn't by his choice that she left him from the ending: "Why can't it be me," (star in someone else's sky).

"Black" expresses the guilt and loss the author felt as a result from his lover leaving him. This song uses many strong and descriptive analogies rather than just stating the facts. The sensory images that are used are universal but also very powerful. This method is effective because it helps the listener feel the mood that he felt.

One of the main archetypes used in this piece is the idea of the darkness which is described relating to depression. The clouded skies blocking the sun, and the pictures all washed in black, express the severe depression that overwhelmed him. The untouched canvas, or the relationship they had, is now darkened; This is showing the cause and effect of the end of their relationship, turning his "world to black."

The analogy of the broken glass in his hands also represents the relationship. What was once whole and clear is now broken and un fixable. Since he is the one who's hands "cradle broken glass," you know that he feel responsible for the end of this relationship.

Children at play brings to mind innocence. This image in the song, however, bothers the writer. He writes, "I can feel their laughter, so why do i sear?" When in a state of depression, such images of happiness can drive a person even further into the dark. It is apparent that this is the case because immediately after this he tells how the "twisted thoughts" in his head sent him "spinning."

Many people can relate to Pearl Jam's song "Black." It is a sad story of lost love and the clouded skies that follow. Anyone who's gone through difficult times knows of the darkness come with them. This depression can overcome you and drive you into a state of solitude. It is important, though, to get through these times. A song like this lets people know that they are not alone. Just simply relating to someone else can help them out of the dark, and this song presents that opportunity.
Patrick - Honolulu, Hi
I actually tend to believe that it is about a tragic death of an ex-love. If you listen to the lyrics, it is evident that there was a split up somehow, however, other songs such as Last Kiss tend to point to a tragic incident that he remembers someone he loved that passed away.Joe - Chicago, Il
I think it is about love lost...the one that got away. To disect it down to the last word...yikes! But when he says "All the pictures have been washed in black," that's (potentially) the person in the song looking at pictures of the person that left and since that person left, those pictures aren't happy anymore, they're black. And the part about taking a walk and seeing kids that play, I think...when you're unhappy and you see happy people around you, you feel like it emphasises your own unhappiness. So these kids aren't actually paying attention to him, but he feels like they're staring at him.
It is hard to tell if this song is a narrative of Vedder's own life, or if its something he made up.-He has admitted that some songs he's written don't have a specific reference.
I've seen him sing it live and lean so far into the mic stand that he puts all of his weight on it so much so that it has fallen over.
Felicia - Seattle, Wa
For me it's the soulful "do do do do do do do's" at the end of the song that really make it a classic Pearl Jam tune. It replicates that feeling you get at the end of a relationship, where you're just going to feel broken forever...and ever...and ever...as if it won't stop.Ty - Niagara Falls, Canada
I think the sheets of empty canvas are the blank pallet of wich he writes this song, His heart is broke and know sheets of empty canvas lay before him to outlet his emotionsNick - Shelton, Ct
My dear God, this song is so awesome. Vedder is amazing when he sings it and the line where he says "i know someday you'll have a beautiful life, I know you'll be a star, in somebody else's sky but why can't it be mine?" is so great.Phil - Twotown, Me
I was reading Live Freak's review, and it occurred to me: a star is nothing but a faraway sun (referring to the final part of the song) i know you will be a star in somebody else's sky. by being a star in 'HIS' sky, she would stop being a sun, to become only a star (he would be able to put her away, not forget her, because that's something you can't do when you love someone that much, but go on with his own life). His life has been massacred by this event (NOT by her) and he wants out, he wants to move on, but she is still a SUN, not a STAR. And Vedder tricks us by using a metaphor of 'night' and 'day'. The sun drops away, but he's expecting that it will come up again sometime (NOT another sun, but the same sun, the same girl). Maybe they've broken up or fought before, but got back together. This time is final. (I don't know if I fully explained myself in this comment. Sorry if I didn't, besides, English ain't my main language)Carlos - Mexico City, Mexico
on some of the live versions mike mccready plays this huge haunting guitar solo that adds so much to the song along with eds vocals, this song is one thier best live actsMick - Melbourne, Australia
very beautiful song! loooooooove it!Marlow - Perth, Australia
The saddest song I've ever heard. I don't think that it would be as heart-wrenching if anyone but Vedder sang it, because he adds those little almost inhuman growls at just the right moments to illustrate his pain. Makes me cry buckets everytime I hear it.Alatriel - Lothlorien, Other
Want another sensual sounding PJ tune? Listen to Wash! Ed is amazing! Ed was actually the last member to join Pearl Jam. He was introduced by Jack Irons, who was drumming for Red Hot Chili Peppers at the time, and would become PJ's drummer from 1994-1998. When Andy Wood of Mother Lovebone died in 3/1990, Pearl Jam was formed shortly afterward (1991) by Stone Gossard (guitar) and Jeff Ament (bass). Ed was given a tape of music written by Stone Gossard and Ed put lyrics to the music in a matter of days. When Stone heard Ed's demo, he was completely blown away. Ed is by far one of the best singers in rock. And this is a man who thought he couldnt sing? This song, especially the emotional ending, is a heart-wrenching tear jerker! You can feel your chest tighten - like your heart is breaking. Ed is, despite his rough attitude, emotional to begin with - this song brought out the highest level of emotion he has ever displayed in any song.Chris - Hull, Ma
An analogy of vivid descriptiveness in every lyric presented.
It represents one sum of all feelings into one, and with that all who hear will feel it to, a journey, whether they be religious or a first time audience.
- skratchthis, New Zealand
Serena - Auckland, New Zealand
Quite simpley one of the most beautiful songs ever written. It describes in detail all the feelings you have after you lose a love.Brian - Paoli, In
All I have to say is that it's one of the most heart-rending ballads I've ever heard, and remains my favorite (painful as it may be) love songs. It's just really, really beautiful.Cassandra - Tacoma, Wa
I think this is about the end of a relationship
between someone who once thought their love was
so big it would last forever, no matter what
happened, but somehow their love turned out to
be fragile and it eventually broke down.

At first, the men starts by comparing his loved
one with a "sheet of empty canvas" and an
"untouched sheet of clay", meaning that when
he first met her she was pure in the sense of
not having tasted "real life" till then,real love,
she was a kind of empty sheet where he could write
everything he wanted. He could have been, most probably, her first love. But the empty
sheets are already referring to the emptiness of his life now that she's gone
(kind of a sign of what is to come a few lines down). Next, when he states,
"all 5 horizons revolved around her soul, as the earth to the sun", I think
it's a metaphorical way of saying she was his sun, the light that guided
him, that warmed him, that ultimately made him live. She was the reason
for his existence. It also denotes the strong bond that linked them (and that
apparently seemed indestructible, but has now turned to mere shades,
formless clouds - already anticipating the verse " my bitter hands shake
beneath the clouds."), like the gravitational force that keeps the earth circling round the sun (we are
taken to assume that the man is represented by the earth). We all know that
the word "sun" is usually used as a synonym of light, happiness, joins:
that's how life was when she was with him (notice the antagonism
between the meaning of "sun" and "black"). But somehow this happiness fainted
away. She left him; things will never be the way they were before. But why has she
left him? Has she tried to make things work out? We know she did: he
might have "taught her everything" (this wasn't likely to be his first love,
'cause he had something to teach her - if it was his first love how could
he teach her anything? -, he was both a lover and a teacher), but she also
gave him "all that she wore", meaning she did all efforts to make things right,
and she fully believed him, therefore she gave him her best. These lines
express a sort of regret for having done something he really shouldn't.
Now his life has become bitter (I think the "hands" refer to human will and action, which
can do really awesome things but also screw up and mess a lot of others -
here we are led to see it the second way) and the recalling of the (far?) gone
days, now memories without a clear shape make him "shake". He suffers,
'cause his life is now empty of meaning, she's not around. And the line
"tattooed everything." is the acknowledgment of how much she meant
and still means for him: she has tattooed his soul, and a tattoo is something you
hold for the rest of your lifetime. She was (is) the love of his life, some kind
of a soul mate you only come across once.
As he takes a "walk outside" he can have a glimpse on the worlds' happiness, symbolized by the kids'
laugh as they play. The kids also stand for the future and the hope in it, but
despite all this he sinks himself deep in his thoughts and has no hope
concerning his own future, so he "sears" and the only thing he has on his
mind are "twisted thoughts" that haunt him, for life is no worth without her. He questions his right
to continue alive ("I'm spinning, oh I'm spinning."); it's a kind of
existential doubt which also reveals a sort of blame feeling towards himself
and his past actions ("she gave him all that she wore" but, most probably
he could have done something more to keep her in his life), he has the
precise notion that something has slipper trough his fingers and, for not having
done what he ought to, the sun (she) has drop away in a rather quick way
("how quick the sun can drop away."), making it even more difficult for
him to deal with: suddenly his light has disappeared and everything was
tainted black, everything, his whole life, was swallowed by darkness. "Now
(referring to the present situation he's living) his bitter hands (the loss
of his light has made him bitter) cradle broken glass of what was
everything": the only thing he can do now his embrace, hold the
remaining memories of his former life, of what once seemed a solid relationship but that after all was delicate as
glass (I think "glass" symbolizes both the perfection of their love, their
unison but also the fragility of the relation that could be easily broken,
like a cup of glass), and deep inside he knows that once broken, you can
never expect a piece of glass to stand together as a whole again, so this
makes him feel even more miserable. And again he reaffirms that this
situation holds inside it a completely unsustainable pain: "all the pictures
have all been washed in black, tattooed everything." and that the love he
felt for her has turned his life upside down, has turned his "world to
black", 'cause he can't stop loving her even though she no longer loves
him,"the love has gone bad". Their split up connected with the fact of him
being conscious of her possible hate towards him (once more "the love has
gone bad") has "tattooed" him, his present and his future (that's why when he
sees the children playing he has no expectations related to his future): "tattooed all I am, all I'll
ever be". She stood for his future, without her nothing more exists. He's
aware of the fact she will, eventually, come across some other man that
will make her happier and she will, as well, make him in high spirits; she
will overcome him in a way he can never expect to overcome her, 'cause
that's impossible to him (I know someday you'll have a beautiful life.).
But even then, when she finds a new love, she won't be the "sun" she was (and
still is) to him, she will shine, nevertheless, but "only" as a "star": no
one will depend on her so much as he does, no one will ever need her , love her as much as him, she will never experience such a strong connection as the
one experienced back when they where together, for in his point of view they
where soulmates destined to be together, "I know you'll be a star in
somebody else's sky." In the last line of the song, the "I" wonders why
can't she be a star in his sky (= life), he wouldn't mind she shined little as long as she shined for
him (= made part of his life); we can notice some anger at himself, he's
still trying to figure out what he did wrong, he's trying to examine
himself, his actions, but somehow (don't ask me why) I feel this is his last
cry for help, trying to make her look back at him, and so it kind of
suggests some hope (I don't know why, but it's the feeling I got when I
listen to the music, I guess it's the way Eddie sings it, I just can't explain it u really need to listen to the way he makes u feel all those emotions.The pain,misery and suffering he has been through are so clear in the last couple of lines).
In the MTV Unplugged Version Eddie added this last line,which
I think it's absolutely amazing and outstanding, he sang it in such a
passionate, stunning and dramatic way I felt my legs and my body shaking
all over (when I listen to it I still do, honestly.): "We, We belong,
baby We belong together, together....Forever!!"
I think this resumes in a perfect way the mood of the song, and sums it all up: someone who has lost his/her true love and has the
precise notion that that was the love of a lifetime that just slipped away.
Live Freak - Beirut, Other