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Better Man (Pearl Jam song)

"Better Man"
Song by Pearl Jam from the album Vitalogy
Released November 22, 1994 (1994-11-22)
Recorded November 1993 (1993-11)–May 1994 (1994-05)
Genre Alternative rock, post-grunge
Length 4:28
Label Epic
Writer Eddie Vedder
Producer Brendan O'Brien, Pearl Jam
Vitalogy track listing
"Satan's Bed"
(Track 10)
"Better Man"
(Track 11)
"Aye Davanita"
(Track 12)
Audio sample

"Better Man" is a song by the American rock band Pearl Jam. It is the eleventh track on the band's third studio album, Vitalogy (1994). The song was written by vocalist Eddie Vedder. Despite the lack of a commercial single release, "Better Man" reached the top of the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and spent a total of eight weeks at number one. The song was included on Pearl Jam's 2004 greatest hits album, rearviewmirror (Greatest Hits 1991–2003).


  • Origin and recording 1
  • Possible meaning of the song 2
  • Reception upon release 3
  • Various performances 4
  • Cover versions 5
  • Chart positions 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Origin and recording

"Better Man" was written by vocalist Eddie Vedder when he was in high school. He said, "I wrote "Better Man" before I could drink—legally—on a four-track in my old apartment."[1] In another interview, Vedder stated, "Sometimes I think of how far I've come from the teenager sitting on the bed in San Diego writing 'Better Man' and wondering if anyone would ever even hear it."[2] Its melody and chord progression are based loosely on the song "Save it For Later" by the English Beat, which the band sometimes jams to live after Better Man. He first performed it with a San Diego, California-based group called Bad Radio. Vedder later recorded it with Pearl Jam, although Pearl Jam was initially reluctant to record it and had initially rejected it from Vs. due to its accessibility.

Producer Brendan O'Brien on the song:

There's a great song we recorded for Vs., "Better Man", which ended up on Vitalogy. One of the first rehearsals we did they played it and I said "man, that song's a hit." Eddie just went "uhhh." I immediately knew I'd just said the wrong thing. We cut it once for Vs., he wanted to give it away to this Greenpeace benefit record, the idea was that the band was going to play and some other singer was going to sing it. I remember saying to the engineer, Nick [DiDia], "this is one of their best songs and they're going to give it away! Can't happen!" And we went to record it and I'm not going to say we didn't try very hard, but it didn't end up sounding very good. I may have even sabotaged that version but I won't admit to that. It took us to the next record, recording it two more times, before he became comfortable with it because it was such a blatantly great pop song.[3]

Possible meaning of the song

Fox Theatre, Vedder clearly said "it's dedicated to the bastard that married my Momma." He was referring to the man who helped raise him and later divorced his mother. That man is Peter Mueller, an attorney in California.

Reception upon release

Never released as a single, "Better Man" nonetheless became one of Pearl Jam's most-played songs on the radio in the U.S. "Better Man" became the most successful song from Vitalogy on the American rock charts. The song reached the top of Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, number two on their Modern Rock Tracks chart, and number 13 on their Top 40 Mainstream chart in 1995. The song spent a total of eight weeks at number one on the Mainstream Rock chart. It appeared on Billboard magazine's Hot 100 Airplay chart, reaching the top 20. In Canada, the song reached the top ten on the Canadian Singles Chart on 6 March 1995. At the 13th annual Pop Music Awards of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, "Better Man" was cited as one of the most-performed ASCAP songs of 1995.[5] Chris True of Allmusic proclaimed it as "arguably the stand out track on 1994’s Vitalogy—and equally arguably—[one of] the bands’ better songs in the whole of their career." He added, "Vitalogy was, admittedly, the end of Pearl Jam’s reign as top rock act and it’s because of songs like "Better Man" that they were able to stay there without succumbing to all the traps of stardom and shameless marketing."[6] When "Better Man" was performed on VH1 Storytellers in 2006, Vedder introduced it as a song about "abusive relationships."[7]

Various performances

"Better Man" was first performed live at the band's May 13, 1993 concert in Live at Lollapalooza 2007, and the Canadian iTunes edition of Backspacer. Performances of the song are also included on the DVDs Touring Band 2000, Live at the Showbox, Live at the Garden, and Immagine in Cornice. The version of the song on The Bridge School Collection, Vol. 1 is a subdued acoustic performance by the band and was recorded live at the Bridge School Benefit.

Cover versions

The song has been covered by:

Chart positions

Chart (1995) Peak
Canadian RPM Singles Chart[10] 9
Polish Singles Chart[11] 18
US Billboard Hot 100 Airplay[12] 13
US Mainstream Rock Tracks[13] 1
US Modern Rock Tracks[13] 2
US Top 40 Mainstream[14] 13
Preceded by
"You Don't Know How It Feels" by Tom Petty
Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks number-one single
January 7 – 20, 1995
February 11 – March 24, 1995
Succeeded by
"Don't Tell Me (What Love Can Do)" by Van Halen


  1. ^ Marks, Craig. "Let's Get Lost". Spin. December 1994.
  2. ^ Hilburn, Robert. "Working Their Way Out of a Jam". Los Angeles Times. December 22, 1996.
  3. ^ Weisbard, Eric, et al. "Ten Past Ten". Spin. August 2001.
  4. ^ Weisel, Al. reviewVitalogy. Rolling Stone. December 15, 1994. Retrieved on March 1, 2008.
  5. ^ "Pearl Jam: Timeline". Archived from the original on 2008-01-09. Retrieved 2007-06-27. 
  6. ^ True, Chris. "Better Man > Review". Allmusic. Retrieved on May 16, 2008.
  7. ^ Cohen, Jonathan. "Pearl Jam Tells Its 'Story' At VH1 Taping". Billboard. June 2, 2006.
  8. ^ "Pearl Jam Songs: "Better Man"".
  9. ^ "Pearl Jam Concert Chronology: 2006".
  10. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 61, No. 5, March 06 1995".  
  11. ^ "Polish Singles Chart |". 
  12. ^ " / Pearl Jam / Longplay".  
  13. ^ a b "Pearl Jam Artist Chart History".  
  14. ^ "Pearl Jam – Billboard Singles".  

External links

  • Lyrics at
  • Review of "Better Man" at Allmusic
  • Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics
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