Pearl Jam: meaning behind the music

By Marianne McKim
April 26, 2001

photo courtesy of

by Marianne McKim

assistant features editor

“Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away.” Pearl Jam’s front man Eddie Vedder might sing this verse in the bands song “Elderly Woman Behind The Counter Of A Small Town,” but the band is far from fading away.

With recently releasing their first and second set of bootlegs from the U.S. tour, the band is coming at us with “Touring Band 200.” This is a DVD that is to contain 50 minutes of special band and crowd footage from their previous tour. It is compromised of 28 full song performances filmed in various cities. If you do, by chance, get to see this program, take special note to “Even Flow.” This was taken from the September 1, 2000 show at the E-Centre in Philadelphia. The release date is not known as of right now, but any avid Pearl Jam fans, like myself, will be sure to inform you when the date is set.

Now that I let you know about the new and upcoming releases for Pearl Jam, let me introduce you to the band, for those of you who don’t know them.

Pearl Jam was founded in June of 1990. The original members of the band were Eddie Vedder, Mike McCready, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament and Dave Krusen. Since then, Pearl Jam has gone through a few drummers and currently Matt Cameron, formerly of Soundgarden, is with them. The name Pearl Jam has said to come from Vedder’s grandmother, Pearl, who was married to a Native American that influenced her cooking style, and was known for a recipe for a preserve, hence, “Pearl’s Jam.”

Matt Cameron is the drummer and backing vocals for Pearl Jam at the moment. Cameron was born November 28, 1962 in San Francisco, California.

Rhythm and lead guitarist is Stone Gossard. He was born July 20, 1966 in Seattle Washington.

Who is that amazing lead guitarist that I have actually seen play his instrument above his head and behind his back? That would be Mike McCready. Originally from Pensacola, Florida, McCready was born on April 5, 1966.

The man who does most of Pearl Jam’s artwork is bassist Jeff Ament. He was born March 10, 1963 in Big Sandy, Montana.

Last, certainly not least is, to me, the most important man, not only in Pearl Jam, but also in the rock business, Eddie Vedder. Born as Edward Louis Severson III, he was later adopted by his stepfather and had the name Edward Jerome Mueller, but after his mother’s divorce he decided to take her maiden name, Vedder. Vedder is the lead singer in the band and also plays guitar and harmonica. He convinced his parents to get him his first guitar at the age of 12 and started playing then. He was born on December 23, 1964 in Evanston, Illinois and currently resides in Seattle, Washington.

My “obsession” with Pearl Jam began in early 1992, less than six months after the release of their first album, “Ten.” My brother came home from college for the weekend and someone had left that CD in his apartment. He asked me if I wanted to listen to it and I instantly became hooked. Who was this incredible band? Better yet, who was this man with the sexiest voice I have ever heard in my life? After this I became a dedicated fan and listener of their music. After “Vs” came out I immediately bought it. The same goes for “Vitalogy,” No Code,” Yield,” “Live On Two Legs,” and “Binaural.”

I’ve played the piano for 14 years and that was probably the start of my intense love for music. I have such a wide variety in what I listen to when it comes to music. Somehow Vedder and his intense love for music captured me. The way that the band comes together and creates these songs that have such deep and personal meanings. It’s almost as if I can get drawn into the lives of the band members and know exactly what is happening with them. Now you are probably thinking, “Alright, this girl is a psycho.” No, I’m not. I am just madly in love with this band. My passion for them (especially Eddie Vedder) is so profound and involved that I can hardly contain myself while listening to their albums and attending their concerts.

Now, is the time where I will tell you how much Eddie Vedder means to me. When I first heard him, I was instantly in love. Vedder has one of those amazing voices there ever was. No one can quite match the way he puts his whole heart and soul into his singing. There are many times when I hear the song “Black,” or “Alive” and feel his pain and it just makes me want to be able to be there to comfort him. I will be there eventually. I also get chills every time I hear a live concert from them. I love how they ad lib. McCready often throws a rift of a different song or two into a guitar solo he is doing in the middle of a current song. Often while singing, Vedder changes the words around to either say what he is feeling or add something involving politics. Another thing that I really like about the band is the fact that they aren’t just out to make money and show off. They are in the business because of their passion for music. They love to make music and they want to keep their fans happy. Vedder said at one concert, “You guys are really making it hard for us to quit.” They care about their fans and they make music not only for themselves but because there are many of us out there that would be crushed if they stopped. Vedder had claimed in many interviews that he wanted to be a different kind of rock star. The band wants their fans to know that they are the same people as they always have been. Just because they have sold billions of records, they resist the temptations of power, wealth and ego. They just want their emphasis to be on their music. To tell you the truth, if they were to ever read this article, they might be upset for me writing it and putting them on the pedestal that they don’t want to be on. Knowing that they will never see this article, I will continue.

To wrap it up, I would just like to say, as if you couldn’t already figure out, Pearl Jam is my absolute favorite band. I feel that I have a connection with them, something that makes me reflect on the lyrics and helps me to understand that I, too, have felt the same way as the band portrays in their songs. I have also realized that I am in love with Eddie Vedder. It’s not just his thick, wavy hair or his unique, intriguing looks, but I fell in love with his voice and lyrics. His songs tell a story about something he has felt or something he has seen happen before. He keeps his songs real and heartfelt. He is very compassionate and devoted to his fans so they too can feel the music that he so greatly wants to reveal to them. Pearl Jam is far from “fading away.” Hopefully the band will soon be working on another album that will keep the going strong and keep them very much “alive.”

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Marianne McKim

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