"04/20/02" was written and recorded hours after a distraught Eddie Vedder had learned that his friend Layne Staley of Alice in Chains was found dead due to an OD from a speedball (A Heroin and Cocaine cocktail) In the song Eddie laments for the wasted talent of Layne and feels utter rage for recent musicians copying his vocal style.
"So sing just like him, fuckers, It won't offend him, Just me... Because he's dead." — Eddie Vedder 04/20/02
"Indifference", which is about Vedder basically giving up. Saying that nothing he does in the long run matters, no matter how much he wants it too.
"Love Boat Captain" was written in response to the 2000 Roskilde Festival disaster, when 9 people suffocated due to the crowd pressure at a Pearl Jam concert.
"Lost 9 friends we'll never know... 2 years ago today"
When the line is performed at live concerts, the last bit is changed to the number of years since June 30, 2000.
The dreary, almost suicidal atmosphere of "Sad" can really choke some people up — especially the chorus:
"And there's no reason that she'd passed" "And there is no god with a plan, it's sad" "And his loneliness is proof, it's sad" "He could only love you, it's sad"
"Sad" is about a man mourning his dead love. The flip side of the song, "Other Side", is even more moving - it's about his lover, who is in Heaven (the titular "other side"), but cannot rejoice because she still misses him.
The sequel to "Man of the Hour", "Come Back" - a young man's lament for his dead father - manages to outdo its predecessor.
And while we're on the Grief Song track, there's the underappreciated gem "Light Years" - a song about a friend of the band who died young, regretting that they couldn't have had more time with her:
"I've come up with riddles and jokes about war, I've figured out numbers and what they're for, I've understood feelings and I've understood words.. But how could you be taken away?"
For tears of joy, "Alive". It's actually not a happy-to-be-alive song at all, though it's often interpreted that way. Eddie Vedder puts it this way: "[He's] still dealing with love, [he's] still dealing with the death of [his] father. All [he] knows is 'I'm still alive'... that's totally out of burden... In the original story, a teenager is being made aware of a shocking truth that leaves him plenty confused... It was a curse - 'I'm still alive.'" But, due to how many people have misinterpreted it, he adds: "They lifted the curse. The audience changed the meaning for me."
This also happened with "Rearviewmirror". The original song was about a young woman who is Driven to Suicide by being abused, but Eddie Vedder has stated in later interviews that it's about escaping abuse and rising above its effects.
"Garden" and "Release" from Ten.
"Given To Fly", which is nothing short of exhilarating; it's supposed to evoke a fable or a picture book, but it's epic as hell nonetheless. Starts off as a Tear Jerker, ends up as a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
"The End" is about being terminally ill, and self-evidently qualifies for this.
"Army Reserve", with lyrics co-written by Damien Echols (one of the accused in the controversial "West Memphis 3" case), is about a soldier's wife who tries to comfort her child, though she is nearing her Despair Event Horizon herself.
"Better Man" is about a woman forcing herself to endure a loveless (and possibly abusive) relationship because she doesn't think she can do better. Eddie Vedder has said that "it's dedicated to the bastard that married my Momma."
"Sirens". Whether you want to read it as a love song, a reflection on mortality, or a heartfelt apology and dedication to one's children, the lyrics managed to reduce the band members themselves to tears when they first heard them.