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Yellow Ledbetter Lyrics

Unsealed on a porch a letter sat.
Then you said, "I wanna leave it again."
Once I saw her on a beach of weathered sand. And on the sand I wanna leave it again. Yeah.
On a weekend I wanna wish it all away, yeah.
And they called and I said that "I want what I said" and then I call out again.
And the reason oughta' leave her calm, I know.
I said "I know what I wear not the boxer or the bag."

Ah yeah, can you see them out on the porch? Yeah, but they don't wave.
But I see them round the front way. Yeah.
And I know, and I know. I don't want to stay.
Make me cry...

I see... Ooh I don't know why there's something else.
I wanna drum it all away... [ ;-) ]
Oh, I said, "I don't, I don't know wheather I was the boxer or the bag."

Ah yeah, can you see them out on the porch? Yeah, but they don't wave.
But I see them round the front way. Yeah.
And I know, and I know. I don't wanna stay at all.
I don't wanna stay. Yeah.
I don't wanna stay. (x2)
I don't... Don't wanna, oh... Yeah. Ooh... Ohh...
Song Info
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Submitted on
Dec 13, 2001
170 Meanings
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For the most part the lyrics in this song are irrelevant. The song was written by Mike McCready and Eddie just made up the words as he went along. Eddie's voice is supposed to be more of an instrument by using improvised words, the words are never the same in concert. Ledbetter refers to Eddie's friend from Chicago named Tim Ledbetter. If there is any meaning to the lyrics I think the letter in the beginning of the song refers to the telegrams that we sent to the families of soldiers KIA in WWII. The telegrams were so distinct that many families didn't have to open them to know what they said. In the song I see a family sitting on a porch when a man comes to deliver a telegram and the family is so devestated about their loss that they cannot even bear to open it.

Matzy seems to be the correct but I read somewhere that the person who recieved the letter was a friend of Vedder's and upon recieving the letter, his friend couldn't bare to see it sitting on his porch table so she and Vedder went on a walk through the neigborhood. Aparantly Vedder's buddy had a bit of an alternative style and upon passing a family as they sat on their porch, Vedder'd friend saluted their raised flag, however, due to her grungy style, the family didn't wave or acknowledge her.

I think the song was written by a ghost of a father. His children stand on the porch, but he doesn't want to stay(even if he could), because it's too painful for him there. Reminds me of the song "Black", for the same reasons, but I suppose it was written to fit each life differently.


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found this on wikipedia: Vedder said in an online chat that it was written around the time of the Gulf War, and added that "it's an anti-patriotic song, actually."[10] On August 7, 2008, at a solo performance in Newark, New Jersey at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Vedder took a question from the audience requesting that he explain the meaning of "Yellow Ledbetter". At first, Vedder joked, saying, "Wait...you mean there's lyrics?" He went on to talk about how the song took as its subject a friend of his from Seattle whose brother served in the first Gulf War. His friend received a "yellow letter" in the mail informing him that his brother had died in the war. Vedder and his friend then went for a walk. On this walk, the friend, whom Vedder described as "alternative-looking," happened by a house with an American flag flying, and people on the porch. He stopped and gestured to the flag, as if to salute it, however the people on the porch glared at him disapprovingly due to his appearance.[11] this is a great song but then again there arent that many PJ songs that arent

Best comment by far.

@aaxantono 100%Spot on

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Loved this song for years and years.

Great use at the end of 50/50. Great film btw. Just one of those great instances of film and music placement.

Don't know how I went so long without this on my iTunes

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man, that makes perfect sense! i never really knew what the words said, and it didn't matter, cause the song rocks. but your explaination makes alot of sense. thanx!

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I was looking for a meaning but it's pretty obvious to me now that the yellow letter is something you know right when you see it. You don't have to know what the song is about to get the feeling of the song. "Make me cry" is the biggest phrase on the track. If your family member is fighting in a war and an officer comes to your doorstep you'll get that vibe and not want to talk to him. If your significant other is about to leave you but you don't want it to happen, you'll get that vibe. Maybe not wanting to stay alive is whats happening. Don't want to stay so you can be with someone, or don't want to stay because you're yellow and don't want to hurt anymore. I heard this tonight on my way to see my wife (been seperated 1 1/2 years she's a stripper and I really wanted to tell her how she's special to me and I want to try to start over) I didn't want to go to her club I hate seeing her like that but I wanted to talk. Wrong place... I took her to where she stays without saying anything I wanted to her. My Yellow Ledbetter is not being able to express that passion I want to her. I just feel the vibe of being a fool. I also know that not expressing it keeps dragging me down. I don't want to stay like this. Hope I can bring myself to opening that letter and facing my fears.

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lol, i could never understand just what he was saying never mind what it was actually about. for a little while there, i thought it wasn't even in english. but even then, i still thought it was a great song. i like the idea of eddie's voice being used as an instrument rather than for conveying the lyrics.

me too i never knew what he was saying at all...i never even cared for the lyrics....it just sounds like he's making noises haha. luv it.

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this is such a pretty song and it's means a lot to everyone...just the lyrics and music are beautiful . pearl jam's amazing

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Everyone who has commented so far are retards... This is the REAL meaning... A young grundge kids older brother goes to fight in a war where he is killed (Death letters come in yellow env. and "unsealed" as in he already read it and he wishes he didnt "i wanna leave it again") Afterwards he is walking down the street and notices and elderly couple sitting on there front porch with an American flag flying and figures with everything he is going through that they havve a connection so he waves to them... All they see is the long hair and grudge look and dont wave back to him... the part about box and bag, the lyrics are wrong... Its: "I dont know weather i'm the boxer or the bag" and that should be self explanatory unless your tarded... The beach is one of 2 things.. either a memory he keeps having about his brother... Or his brother died on a beach... Either one works... Oh yeah and the reason leaving her calm: He died for his country and though its noble it doesnt make the mother feel any better... So the reason that should make it okay helps none... The younger brother wants to help (be the "boxer") but just makes things worse so he is beating himself up about it (being the "bag)... Come on if you dont know the real meaning behind a song dont comment on it saying you do...

Song Meaning

Thank you. I had the general gist of the meaning before (about the family of a soldier that died) but I never understood the meaning of the "boxer or the bag" until you explained it. Thank you a lot.

Don't call people retarded when you don't know the difference between 'whether' and 'weather', or 'there' and 'their' and they're'.

aaronkirkman you are my hero. Thank you so much for your brilliant and insightful words. I thank God in heaven that you have been sent to us with your powers of song interpretation that us normal folk can only dream about. I mean, its clear that you are great friends with the band and have interviewed them extensively about what they meant when they wrote this song. Like all songs this one obviously has one meaning and one meaning only and you have been given this meaning from on high by the Creator Himself. I'm just sorry that being the...

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matzy's interpretation is the correct one. How the families of soldiers would wait on their porch for the letters. Sounds good Claires advocate but not correct

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i think matzy said it best, about the whole letter thing. For a while i thought he said "i don't know whether it was a box or a bag"..which i saw as 'he didnt know how they brought the body back over to the states'. But now i think the "boxer or the bag" makes sense, cuz its like, in any war..are you the victim or the aggressor? if you think this song means nothing, your ignorant because mr. vedder and pearl jam wouldnt attach their names to anything that is empty of meaning or thought.

@dimitri 99% sure the lyrics are "the box or the bag, referencing his (or the) brother (buddy, etc) being sent home in a box (coffin) or bag (body bag). In other live versions,(see link below at 1:31 into song) he clearly says, "he's coming home in a box or a bag". On the album versions, the lyric is "I don't know whether it was a box or the bag"

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