Song Analysis “Black” Pearl Jam

Sheets of empty canvas, untouched sheets of clay
Were laid spread out before me as her body once did
All five horizons revolved around her soul
As the earth to the sun
Now the air I tasted and breathed has taken a turn
Ooh, and all I taught her was everything
Ooh, I know she gave me all that she wore
And now my bitter hands chafe beneath the clouds
Of what was everything?
Oh, the pictures have all been washed in black, tattooed everything…

I take a walk outside
I’m surrounded by some kids at play
I can feel their laughter, so why do I sear
Oh, and twisted thoughts that spin round my head
I’m spinning, oh, I’m spinning
How quick the sun can, drop away
And now my bitter hands cradle broken glass
Of what was everything
All the pictures have 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…yeah…
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 song is about an artist losing his beloved, his muse. The five horizons may refer to the five human senses. He falls into a deep depression. Black here symbolizes hopelessness and misery. Note that this symbolism of black is not universal as black can also symbolize honor, beauty, even rain.

Did you notice the repetition of the word sun? He refers to the way his life centers around her as being like the earth revolves around the sun where he is the earth and she is the sun. Later he sadly remarks that he sees “How quick the sun can drop away.”

In a similar vein, he ends the song lamenting that he knows she’ll be a star, but in somebody else’s sky. Many of us have had a special person in our lives that we let go only to see him or her becomes another man’s wife or another woman’s husband. It truly is one of the most heart-wrenching experiences of life. Still, it is better that the one we love should be happy with someone than to be miserable and alone.]



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