Eddie Vedder

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As the singer for Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder cemented his place as one of modern rock’s best-known frontmen, riding the band’s early success as Seattle grunge icons into a remarkably consistent and varied career. His low, rugged vocals, introspective lyrics, and dynamic presence made him one of the 1990s’ most influential frontmen and he used his celebrity to promote issues like environmental activism and women’s rights. As Pearl Jam’s success continued into the 21st century, Vedder also branched out into occasional solo work, contributing to a number of films including his acclaimed soundtrack to 2007′s Into the Wild. After his 2011 solo acoustic release, Ukulele Songs, he spent much of the following decade devoted to Pearl Jam, becoming a Rock & Roll Hall of Famer in the process. In 2022, Vedder released Earthling, his first solo album devoted to rock & roll.
Born Edward Louis Severson III in Evanston, Illinois Vedder was raised by his mother Karen Vedder and stepfather Peter Mueller. Unaware of his biological father’s existence, he used Mueller as his surname until his late teens; he later found out his real father had died and eventually took his mother’s maiden name as his own. The family’s relocation to San Diego in the mid-’70s ushered in Vedder’s two primary passions: music and surfing. He learned to play the guitar which, along with his surfboard, helped sustain him through a difficult period that ultimately saw him drop out of high school. After earning his GED back in Chicago, Vedder returned to San Diego in the mid-’80s, where he worked odd jobs, recorded songs, and played in bands like Indian Style and Bad Radio.
In 1990, friend and former Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Jack Irons gave Vedder a demo tape from some Seattle friends seeking a new lead singer. Vedder’s powerful voice and thoughtful lyrics earned him an invitation to Seattle to meet Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, whose most recent band, Mother Love Bone, had just folded following the death of its lead singer, Andrew Wood. In fact, they were recording a tribute album to Wood called Temple of the Dog and invited Vedder to contribute vocals on several songs alongside Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell. Upon its April 1991 release, “Hunger Strike,” a duet with Cornell, marked Vedder’s first featured vocal appearance on record and became Temple of the Dog’s breakout single, introducing the newcomer to fans ahead of Pearl Jam’s own debut later that August.
Anchored by Vedder’s distinctive baritone growl and the band’s battery of dark, chugging riffs, Ten catapulted Pearl Jam into the mainstream and became one of the best-selling albums of the decade. It preceded the release of Nirvana’s watershed album Nevermind by one month, and the massive success of both bands assured that Vedder and Kurt Cobain would become the public faces of the early-’90s grunge movement. While both singers struggled under the weight of this role, Vedder managed to parlay the group’s early success into a long and lasting career, while Cobain sadly succumbed to his demons in 1994. Pearl Jam spent the middle part of the decade at the top of their game, notching three consecutive number one albums, building a devoted fan base, and earning a reputation for doing things their own way; their legendary David and Goliath-like battle with Ticketmaster over inflated concert prices earned them plenty of goodwill from frustrated concertgoers. For his part, Vedder used his elevated platform to support a number of causes from abortion rights and gun control to environmentalism and liberal politics. He also dabbled in extracurricular collaborations, singing with a range of artists from famed qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to the Ramones.
At the dawn of the new millennium, Pearl Jam were fast becoming a rock institution, touring relentlessly and satiating fans with scads of official bootleg releases of their live shows. Parallel to artistically satisfying releases like 2002′s Riot Act and 2006′s Pearl Jam, Vedder made occasional forays into solo work, contributing songs to films like Sean Penn’s I Am Sam (2001), the documentary Body of War (2007), and the Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There. An ongoing friendship with Sean Penn led Vedder to compose music for Penn’s 2007 film Into the Wild, the soundtrack of which became Vedder’s first official solo release. In 2011, he offered up a second solo outing in the acoustic Ukulele Songs, which he supported with a tour of smaller, more intimate venues. He also continued to guest on songs by other artists including R.E.M., Neil Finn, and Glen Hansard. Meanwhile, Pearl Jam aged gracefully into middle age, releasing 2013′s low-key Lightning Bolt and a 2017 live double-LP recorded at historic Wrigley Field, home of Vedder’s beloved Chicago Cubs. They were also inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. That same year he appeared performing under his birth name, Edward Louis Severson, during an episode of Twin Peaks’ long-awaited third season. Along with Pearl Jam’s 11th studio album, Gigaton, 2020 brought the Vedder solo EP, Matter of Time. The following year, he resumed his ongoing collaboration with Sean Penn, contributing heavily to the soundtrack of his film Flag Day. He also teamed up with Bruce Springsteen and Tom Morello for a cover of AC/DC’s classic “Highway to Hell.”
During May of 2021, Vedder visited the Beverly Hills studio of producer Andrew Watt in order to rehearse for a benefit concert. The singer and producer unexpectedly started collaborating on new material, songs that became the seeds of Earthling, the 2022 solo album from Vedder. Earthling found Vedder working in collaboration not only with Watt and Red Hot Chili Pepper drummer Chad Smith, but with Elton John, Ringo Starr, Benmont Tench and Stevie Wonder on a diverse, colorful album. ~ Timothy Monger