I Am Mine

I’ve already made it known that of the two songs debuted at the 2001 Bridge Benefit Concert, I much preferred “Last Soldier” to “I Am Mine”. In fact, I loved “Last Soldier” so much that the studio version of “I Am Mine” had no chance but to suffer by comparison, and by its inclusion bear the wrath of my deep regret. But the leadoff single to Riot Act is another example of a Pearl Jam song that has grown on me over time, like “Given To Fly”, “Why Go”, and to a lesser extent, “Light Years”. One review I read at the time of Riot Act‘s release, likened “I Am Mine” to a sea-shanty, and I’ve always enjoyed that comparison. It seems frivolous at first, justified only by the waltzy 6/8 time signature and reference to the ocean. But what percentage of Vedder’s songs don’t mention the sea? Still, even if Ed hasn’t been devouring Smithsonian Folkways recordings of “Paddy Doyle’s “All For Me Grog” and “Haul on the Bowline” (and he might yet), there’s at least a strong resemblance to Neil Young’s “Song X”, and we all know whose baritone was backing that one up.

The statement “I am mine” recalls George Harrison’s “I Me Mine”, but is intrisincally different. “I Me Mine” was a song renouncing the ego, the selfishness inherent in those personal pronouns. “I Am Mine”, while not selfish, is all about possession and claiming one’s self, rather than giving it up. The “mine” is important only as the one thing human beings can own. This of course flies in the face of materialists, and generalized Western culture, which is built upon a foundation of procuring and “owning” goods, food, land, sometimes even people. “I Am Mine” challenges the idea that only through ownership can one attain freedom, by acknowledging that only by accepting the fact that “you can’t take it with you when you go”, as the saying goes, can one be truly free. But this truth is also a lonely truth. “I only own my mind”, Vedder sings, no one else’s, which may be why most of us feel a desire to comfort ourselves with as much stuff as possible.

“I Am Mine” manages to sound both melancholy and majestic, with a sorrowful verse melody alternating with a more uplifting chorus. Vedder’s intense repetition of the word “time” and the hard “i” sound in general, is a little grating at first, but over time reveals itself to be mantra-like, a constant reenforcement of the all important “I”. There’s also some beautifully subtle language: “The full moon is looking for friends at high tide” always struck me as childlike and goofy, but picking apart that image it starts to make more sense. The full moon is pulling on the earth, literally raising the height of the oceans. Imagining that the reason is because a lonesome moon is looking for friends is a clever, understated invention. It’s an example of the song’s deceptive simplicity. Big ideas couched in accessible lyrics again in a steady, even-keeled midtempo rock song.


~ by Michael on August 21, 2007.

9 Responses to “I Am Mine”

  1. On a side note, the studio version has a great little guitar outro that I think really works within the song and was a pleasant surprise after listening to the Bridge School ’01 bootleg for so long before Riot Act was released. On a stand alone basis, I Am Mine is one of the strongest tracks on Riot Act (which isn’t saying too much).

  2. My friends and I used to joke that “I Am Mine” was a pirate song. When I hear the verses, I picture the crew of the Black Pearl singing it from atop the deck of their ship.

    This song has grown on me over the years, but it still hasn’t made any kind of real impression. I can appreciate the lyrics and imagery, but I thought the song lacks musically. I’m all for simplicity, but the structure is just too simple for my tastes. The song reminds me, in a way, of “Gone.” As a stand-alone Ed song, it’s just fine. But when the full band joins, it sounds to me as if the other guys are searching desperately for something to add to the song. I would have been just happy had “I Am Mine” been a b-side; nonetheless it’s inclusion on “Riot Act” did little to affect the outcome of that album for better or worse.

  3. This song includes one of my favorite ed usages of the language.

    In separate choruses, he is singing about all the “innocents” lost at one time and all the “innocence” lost at one time. Audibly, it sounds the same. But, on paper, it means two different things.

    When we’re talking about a devastating event, like, say, 9/11 … there the actual people who perish — the “innocents.” But so does our “innocence” — all of our innocence. It’s how an event like that can transcend time and space and affect all of us. Sitting in my little cubicle in West Texas on the morning of 9/11, I couldn’t help but be profoundly affected by the events in NYC — even though I knew nary a soul there.

    Thousands of “innocents” lost their lives that day. But millions of us lost our “innocence.” Ed, apparently, recognizes the difference.

    I also think it’s ridiculously cool that you’d never know that without the liner notes. A good reason to by the album, instead of burning it 🙂

  4. Maybe not quite lead single material, but IAM is a good song overall. I’m interested, how do you fans interpret the lines:

    The North is to South
    What the clock is to time

    I’ve puzzled over it for about five years and still cannot make sense of it.

  5. Being from NYC I appreciate and relate to Jeff’s comment.

    This is an Irish drinking song all the way.

  6. I always considered this a subtle “9/11” song. Obviously not as obvious as Bruce saying, “Come on up for the rising”, but along the same lines…”We’re safe tonight”, the innocen(ce)ts (which was used maybe to better effect in “Daughter” with “viol(ence)ins”, maybe), the looking for friends, bemoaning selfishness, and, No Way, if I may take a crack at that lyrical conundrum, the sense of loss and being lost (a clock measures time, and north, being where the compass needle points to, can be said to “measure” location/direction, ed’s saying you can “measure” direction/location, you can measure time…but they don’t mean much…life is in all places and directions and the only measure of time that matters is our lifetime…I am mine. Clear as glass, no?) While “I Am Mine” is a challenge to selfish materialistic consumers, I see it much more as a response to 9/11 and the impossible struggle to make sense of that tragedy, when nothing makes sense and everything you thought you knew was wrong (we’re safe…the world loves us and is as materialistic and selfish as we are), and really all you know is that you “are” and all you have, all you are, is yours, yourself.

    OR it’s an English as a Second Language “Let’s have fun with pronouns! exercise.

    If anyone feels like a Top Five 9/11 song set, be my guest. I’ll go with a Top Five First-Person Pronoun Songs…no forget it, De la Soul, “Me, Myself and I” was just crowned all time, undisputed champ…knocking out “I Me Mine” in the 3rd round. Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me, Babe” might come out of retirement to challenge the champ, but will have to go up against “I Am Mine” first. Meanwhile, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” was banned from the ring for being a little too long, a lot too stupid and way too U2. (second person pronoun disqualification). O.K…I think I’ve made enough jokes to forget that I was talking about Ed talking about 9/11.

  7. oleyever, that was a really good explanation of the “clock is to time” lyric. I was going to say something similar, except use the compass rose on a map. North is the directional reference.

    Unlike most of the rest of you, I LOVE this song. It can be used to discuss loss of any kind (9/11, for instance), but it was written before 9/11. Ed said he wrote it in his hotel room the night before PJ’s first concert after Roskilde. I think that it may have been written in reponse to Roskilde, but it seems that he had also been in the midst of a number of personal losses as well. In the end the message is a profound one, that there is one thing that we will never lose, and that is ourselves. Others have commented on the wordplay, innocents/innocence, significant/significance. One of the things this device does is make the sentiments seem both personal and universal. Something Ed does so well.

    I love the line:

    “We’re all different behind the eyes.”

  8. Oh yeah…Roskilde. Hmmm…i think Ed said that just to throw you off…I think he knew about 9/11 BEFORE 9/11..

    This is one of my favorites, and I really don’t say that alot. I know there’s better songs, and maybe i like a lot of other ones a lot more, but in a different way…there’s just something about “I Am Mine”…and i haven’t listened to it in a long long time…

    it was a single…

  9. I actually seem to recall Ed saying he started it after Roskilde and finished it after 9/11.

    It’s kind of a combination of both.

    Of course, I could be totally making that up.

    I do think there’s a specific reason he mentions 9/11 before playing this song on L@TG

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