Eddie Vedder (born Edward Louis Severson III on December 23, 1964 in Evanston, Illinois) is an American musician who serves as the lead singer and one of three guitarists for the American rock band Pearl Jam. Vedder left the Southern California music scene and moved to Seattle, Washington in 1990 to join Pearl Jam where he rose to fame amid the grunge movement of the early 1990s. He is notable for his "golden baritone" vocal style, and is considered a cultural icon of alternative rock. He has also been involved in other music outside of Pearl Jam, including soundtrack work and contributions to albums by other artists. In 2007, Vedder released his first solo album in the form of the soundtrack for the film Into the Wild (2007).
Eddie Vedder was born Edward Louis Severson III in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, the son of Karen Lee Vedder and Edward Louis Severson, Jr. His father was a lounge musician. His parents divorced in 1965, when Vedder was one-year-old. His mother soon remarried a man named Peter Mueller, an attorney, and Vedder was raised believing that Mueller was his biological father. His adopted name became Edward Mueller. While living in Evanston, Vedder's family fostered seven younger children in a group home.
In the mid-1970s, the family, including Vedder's three younger half-brothers, moved to San Diego County, California. It was at this point that Vedder, who had received a guitar from his mother on his twelfth birthday, began turning to music as a source of comfort. He particularly found solace in The Who's 1973 album, Quadrophenia. He said, "When I was around 15 or 16...I felt all alone...I was all alone???except for music." His mother and Mueller divorced when Vedder was in his late teens. His mother and brothers moved back to the Chicago area, but Vedder remained with his stepfather in California so he would not have to change high schools.
It was not until after the divorce that Vedder learned the truth about his parentage, that Mueller was really his stepfather. Vedder had met his biological father briefly as a child, but had believed that Severson was merely an old friend of his parents. By the time Vedder learned the truth, Severson had died of multiple sclerosis. Vedder's already bad relationship with his stepfather became increasingly strained. By his senior year at San Dieguito High School, Vedder was on his own, living in an apartment and supporting himself with a nightly job at a drug store in Encinitas. He eventually dropped out of high school in his senior year due to the pressures of balancing school with working. He joined the rest of his family in Chicago, and it was at this time that he changed his name to Eddie Vedder, Vedder being his mother's maiden name.
In the early 1980s, Vedder worked as a waiter, earned his high school GED, and briefly attended a community college near Chicago. In 1984, Vedder returned to San Diego, California with his girlfriend, Beth Liebling. He kept busy recording demo tapes at his home and working various jobs, including a position as a contracted security guard at the La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla. Vedder had several stints in San Diego area bands, including Surf and Destroy and The Butts. One of those bands, called Indian Style, included future Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave drummer Brad Wilk. In 1988, Vedder became the vocalist for the San Diego progressive christian funk rock band Bad Radio. The music of the original incarnation of the band was influenced by Duran Duran; however, after Vedder joined Bad Radio, the band moved on to a more alternative rock sound influenced by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Temple of the Dog
Main article: Temple of the Dog
After leaving Bad Radio, Vedder was without a band, and throughout the rest of 1990 he worked part-time as a night attendant at a local gas station. Through the Southern California music scene, Vedder met former Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Jack Irons, who became a friend of Vedder and who would play basketball with him. Later in 1990, Irons gave him a demo tape from a band in Seattle, Washington that was looking for a singer. He listened to the tape shortly before going surfing, where lyrics came to him. Vedder wrote lyrics for three of the songs in what he later described as a "mini-opera" entitled Mamasan. The songs tell the story of a young man who, like Vedder, learns that he had been lied to about his paternity and that his real father is dead ("Alive"). He grows up to become a serial killer ("Once"), and is eventually imprisoned and sentenced to death ("Footsteps"). Vedder recorded vocals for the three songs, and mailed the demo tape back to Seattle. The three songs would later become Pearl Jam's "Alive", "Once", and "Footsteps".
After hearing Vedder's tape, former Mother Love Bone members Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament invited Vedder to come to Seattle to audition for their new band. They were instantly impressed with his unique sound. At the time, Gossard and Ament were working on the Temple of the Dog project founded by Soundgarden's Chris Cornell as a musical tribute to Mother Love Bone's frontman Andrew Wood, who died of a heroin overdose at age 24. Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron and newcomer Mike McCready were also a part of the project. The song "Hunger Strike" became a duet between Cornell and Vedder. Cornell was having trouble with the vocals at practice, when Vedder stepped in. Cornell later said "he sang half of that song not even knowing that I'd wanted the part to be there and he sang it exactly the way I was thinking about doing it, just instinctively." Vedder would provide background vocals on several other songs as well. In April 1991, Temple of the Dog was released through A&M Records.
Main article: Pearl Jam
Pearl Jam was formed in 1990 by Ament, Gossard, and McCready, who then recruited Vedder and drummer Dave Krusen. The band originally took the name Mookie Blaylock, but was forced to change it when the band signed to Epic Records in 1991. After the recording sessions for Ten were completed, Krusen left Pearl Jam in May 1991. Krusen was replaced by Matt Chamberlain, who had previously played with Edie Brickell & New Bohemians. After playing only a handful of shows, one of which was filmed for the "Alive" video, Chamberlain left to join the Saturday Night Live band. As his replacement, Chamberlain suggested Dave Abbruzzese, who joined the group and played the rest of Pearl Jam's live shows supporting the Ten album.
Ten broke the band into the mainstream, and became one of the best selling alternative albums of the 1990s. The band found itself amidst the sudden popularity and attention given to the Seattle music scene and the genre known as grunge. The single "Jeremy" received Grammy Award nominations for Best Rock Song and Best Hard Rock Performance in 1993. Pearl Jam received four awards at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards for its music video for "Jeremy", including Video of the Year and Best Group Video. Ten was ranked number 207 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, and "Jeremy" was ranked number 11 on VH1's list of the 100 greatest songs of the '90s.
Eddie Vedder appeared on the cover of the October 25, 1993 issue of Time, as part of the feature article discussing the rising popularity of the grunge movement. Vedder had declined to participate, and was upset with the magazine about the cover.
Following an intense touring schedule, the band went into the studio to record what would become its second studio album, Vs., released in 1993. Upon its release, Vs. set at the time the record for most copies of an album sold in a week, and spent five weeks at number one on the Billboard 200. Vs. was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Album in 1995. From Vs., the song "Daughter" received a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and the song "Go" received a Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance.
Feeling the pressures of success, with much of the burden of Pearl Jam's popularity falling on Vedder, the band decided to decrease the level of promotion for its albums, including refusing to release music videos. Vedder's issue with fame came from what he stated as "what happens when a lot of these people start thinking you can change their lives or save their lives or whatever and create these impossible fuckin' expectations that in the end just start tearing you apart." In 1994, the band began a much-publicized boycott of Ticketmaster, which lasted for three years and limited the band's ability to tour in the United States. During the mid-1990s, Vedder faced what he called a "pretty intense stalker problem." Vedder would refer to the issue in the song "Lukin" from No Code.
Later that same year the band released its third studio album, Vitalogy, which became the band's third straight album to reach multi-platinum status. It was at this time that Vedder began to be featured more on rhythm guitar. Many of the songs on Vitalogy appear to be based by Vedder around the pressures of fame. The album received Grammy nominations for Album of the Year and Best Rock Album in 1996. Vitalogy was ranked number 492 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The lead single "Spin the Black Circle" won a Grammy Award in 1996 for Best Hard Rock Performance. Although Abbruzzese performed on the album Vitalogy, he was fired in August 1994, four months before the album was released. The band cited political differences between Abbruzzese and the other members; for example, he disagreed with the Ticketmaster boycott. He was replaced by Jack Irons, a close friend of Vedder and the former and original drummer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Regarding the approach Pearl Jam took after its initial success, Vedder stated, "We've had the luxury of writing our own job description...and that description has basically been cut down to just one line: make music." The band subsequently released No Code in 1996 and Yield in 1998. In 1998, prior to Pearl Jam's U.S. Yield Tour, Irons left the band due to dissatisfaction with touring. Pearl Jam enlisted former Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron as Irons' replacement on an initially temporary basis, but he soon became a permanent replacement for Irons. "Do the Evolution" (from Yield) received a Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance. In 1998, Pearl Jam recorded "Last Kiss", a cover of a 1960s ballad made famous by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers. It was released on the band's 1998 fan club Christmas single; however, by popular demand, the cover was released to the public as a single in 1999. "Last Kiss" peaked at number two on the Billboard charts and became the band's highest-charting single.
In 2000, the band released its sixth studio album, Binaural, and initiated a successful and ongoing series of official bootlegs. The band released seventy-two such live albums in 2000 and 2001, and set a record for most albums to debut in the Billboard 200 at the same time. "Grievance" (from Binaural) received a Grammy nomination for Best Hard Rock Performance. The band released its seventh studio album, Riot Act, in 2002. Pearl Jam's contribution to the 2003 film, Big Fish, "Man of the Hour", was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in 2004. The band's eighth studio album, the eponymous Pearl Jam, was released in 2006. The band released its ninth studio album, Backspacer, in 2009.
On Pearl Jam records, Vedder uses the pseudonym "Jerome Turner" for his non-musical (usually design and artwork) contributions. He has also at times used the pseudonym of "Wes C. Addle" ("West Seattle").
Other musical projects
Eddie Vedder performing at the premiere for Body of War at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival
Vedder has contributed solo material to several soundtracks and compilations, including the soundtracks for the films Dead Man Walking (1995), I Am Sam (2001), A Brokedown Melody (2004), and Body of War (2007). Vedder collaborated with Pakistani musician Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan for his contributions to the Dead Man Walking soundtrack. He covered The Beatles' "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" for the I Am Sam soundtrack. Vedder wrote two songs for the 2007 feature documentary, Body of War, produced by Ellen Spiro and Phil Donahue: "No More" (a song referring to the Iraq War) and "Long Nights". Vedder and the supergroup The Million Dollar Bashers, which includes members from Sonic Youth, Wilco, and Bob Dylan's band, covered Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" for the biopic film, I'm Not There (2007).
Into the Wild
Main article: Into the Wild (soundtrack)
Vedder contributed an album's worth of songs to the soundtrack for the 2007 film, Into the Wild. The soundtrack was released on September 18, 2007 through J Records. It includes covers of the Indio song "Hard Sun" and the Jerry Hannan song "Society". Vedder said that having to write songs based on a narrative "simplified things." He said, "There were fewer choices. The story was there and the scenes were there." Vedder's songs written for the film feature a folk sound. Thom Jurek of Allmusic called the soundtrack a "collection of folksy, rootsy tunes where rock & roll makes fleeting appearances." Vedder won a 2008 Golden Globe Award for the song "Guaranteed" from Into the Wild. He was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his contributions to the film's original score. At the 2008 Grammy Awards, "Guaranteed" received a nomination for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media. "Guaranteed" was also nominated a 2008 World Soundtrack Award in the category of Best Original Song Written Directly for a Film. At the 2009 Grammy Awards, "Rise" received a nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Solo.
Vedder promoted the Into the Wild soundtrack with his first solo tour, which began in April 2008. The April leg of the tour, dubbed the "April Fools Tour", began in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada at The Centre on April 2, 2008 and was composed of ten dates focusing on the West Coast of the United States. Vedder continued the tour with a second leg in August 2008 composed of fourteen dates focusing on the East Coast and Canada. The second leg of the tour began in Boston, Massachusetts at the Boston Opera House and ended in Chicago, Illinois at the Auditorium Theatre. In June 2009, Vedder followed his 2008 solo tour with another solo tour composed of fourteen dates focusing on the Eastern United States and Hawaii, which began in Albany, New York at the Palace Theatre and continued through to Honolulu at the Hawaii Theatre.
In addition to playing with Pearl Jam and Temple of the Dog, Vedder has performed or recorded with numerous well-known artists. He has appeared on albums by The Who, Ramones, Neil Young, Neil Finn, Bad Religion, Cat Power, Mike Watt, Fastbacks, Wellwater Conspiracy, Jack Irons, and John Doe, and has also recorded with The Strokes, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, The Supersuckers, Susan Sarandon, and Zeke. Vedder performed three songs with the remaining members of The Doors at the 1993 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. He also performed with R.E.M. at the 2007 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Vedder made a guest appearance at the Ramones' last show on August 6, 1996 at the Palace in Hollywood.
Vedder had a brief acting cameo in the 1992 movie, Singles, along with Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam. He appeared as himself, playing drums in lead actor Matt Dillon's backing band, Citizen Dick. He was also interviewed for the 1996 grunge documentary, Hype!. He appears in the 2003 Ramones documentary, End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones. In 2007, he made a cameo as himself in the comedy film, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. He appears in the 2007 Tom Petty documentary, Runnin' Down a Dream, the 2008 political documentary, Slacker Uprising, and the 2009 Howard Zinn documentary, The People Speak.
Vedder is known for his outspoken left-wing social and political views. Discussing his views on current issues in the United States, Vedder said, "People on death row, the treatment of animals, women's right to choose. So much in America is based on religious fundamentalist Christianity. Grow up! This is the modern world!"
In 1992, Spin printed an article by Vedder, entitled "Reclamation", which detailed his views on abortion. Vedder was outspoken in support of Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader in 2000, and Pearl Jam played a series of concerts on the 2004 Vote for Change tour, supporting the candidacy of John Kerry for U.S. President. Vedder told Rolling Stone magazine, "I supported Ralph Nader in 2000, but it's a time of crisis. We have to get a new administration in." Vedder supported the candidacy of Barack Obama in 2008.
In his spare time, Vedder is a surfer and active in surf-related conservation efforts, most notably The Surfrider Foundation. Vedder shows his support for environmental activism by sporting an Earth First! tattoo on his right calf. The logo is of a monkey wrench crossed with a stone hammer. Vedder is also a vegetarian.
Vedder is a longtime and outspoken supporter for the Free the West Memphis 3 movement, a cause that advocates the release of three teenagers (now in their 30's) who were convicted in 1994 of the gruesome murders of three little boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. In an interview with Larry King on December 19, 2007, Damien Echols, who is on death row for the murders, said that Vedder has been the "greatest friend a person could have" and that the two of them have collaborated on songs while he is in prison. The song "Army Reserve" on Pearl Jam's 2006 self-titled album features a lyrical collaboration between Vedder and Echols.
Musical style and influences
Critic Jim DeRogatis describes Vedder's vocals as a "Jim Morrison-like vocal growl." Greg Prato of Allmusic said, "With his hard-hitting and often confessional lyrical style and Jim Morrison-esque baritone, Vedder also became one of the most copied lead singers in all of rock." Vedder has inducted The Doors, Neil Young, the Ramones, and R.E.M. into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in his induction speeches he has cited them all as influences. Other influences that Vedder has cited include The Who, The Jackson 5, The Beatles, Talking Heads, Sonic Youth, Fugazi, Tom Waits, and the Pixies.
Vedder's lyrical topics range from personal ("Alive", "Better Man" (from Vitalogy)) to social and political concerns ("Even Flow" (from Ten), "World Wide Suicide" (from Pearl Jam)). His lyrics have often invoked the use of storytelling and have included themes of freedom, individualism, and sympathy for troubled individuals. Other recurring themes include the use of water metaphors, as well as the idea of leaving everything behind to start again (featured in such songs as "Rearviewmirror" (from Vs.), "MFC" (from Yield), "Evacuation" (from Binaural), and "Gone" (from Pearl Jam)).
Although best known as a vocalist, Vedder also plays guitar on many Pearl Jam songs, beginning with the Vs. songs "Rearviewmirror" and "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town". When the band started, Gossard and McCready were clearly designated as rhythm and lead guitarists, respectively. The dynamic began to change when Vedder started to play more rhythm guitar during the Vitalogy era. McCready said in 2006, "Even though there are three guitars, I think there's maybe more room now. Stone will pull back and play a two-note line and Ed will do a power chord thing, and I fit into all that." Vedder's guitar playing helped the band's sound progress toward a more stripped-down style; the songs "Rearviewmirror" and "Corduroy" (from Vitalogy) feature Vedder's raw, punk-influenced guitar playing. As he had more influence on the band's sound, Vedder sought to make the band's musical output less catchy. He said, "I felt that with more popularity, we were going to be crushed, our heads were going to pop like grapes." He has also contributed performances on the ukulele, harmonica, accordion, and electric sitar to various Pearl Jam recordings.
Throughout Pearl Jam's career, Vedder has engaged in interactivity with the crowd during the band's concerts. Early in Pearl Jam's existence, Vedder and the band became known for their intense live performances. Vedder participated in stage diving as well as crowd surfing. Looking back at this time, Vedder said, "It's hard for us to watch early performances, even though that's when people think we were on fire and young. Playing music for as long as I had been playing music and then getting a shot at making a record and at having an audience and stuff, it's just like an untamed force...a different kind of energy. And I find it kind of hard to watch those early performances because it's so just fucking, semi-testosterone-fueled or whatever. But it didn't come from jock mentality. It came from just being let out of the gates."
Vedder's perspective on performing changed during the Vs. era, explaining that "a year later the meaning of a concert to me became, like, 'Wow, what if there was silence between the songs?' Then if I did say anything, then maybe the crowd could hear it." He also commented in regard to getting a crowd reaction that "you should be able to do it just with chord changes and the way you deliver a song." Even though he has ceased participating in more extreme concert activities, Vedder's connection with the audience has continued to play an important part in the band's concerts. He stated, "I look around the audience, and there's so many faces, and I've looked into the eyes of at least the ones I could see???there's at least 1,000 faces???and I've communicated directly to them and seen where they're coming from...One thing I don't feel is separation from the crowd. I don't feel like we're speaking from a platform, I feel like we are communicating on the same level."
Vedder began incorporating social commentary and political criticism into his lyrics and performances early in his career with Pearl Jam. He usually comments on politics between songs, often to criticize U.S. foreign policy. During Pearl Jam's 1992 appearance on MTV Unplugged, Vedder stood atop his stool, took out a marker pen, and wrote PRO-CHOICE down his arm in large letters when the band performed the song "Porch". During Pearl Jam's 2007 Lollapalooza headlining show, Vedder and the band played a song telling the crowd in Chicago to boycott the oil company B.P. Amoco because they had been polluting Lake Michigan.
He briefly served as the drummer for Liebling's instrumental experimental rock band Hovercraft in the mid-1990s, going by the stage name Jerome230. Describing his relationship with Liebling, Vedder said, "Relationships can be tough. There are times???I end up putting a lot of time into this music thing. I don't sleep at night." Vedder and Liebling divorced in September 2000 after a 16-year relationship. He is currently in a relationship with model Jill McCormick. Vedder and McCormick have two daughters, Olivia, born June 11, 2004, and Harper Moon, born September 23, 2008.
Vedder attended San Dieguito High School, now called San Dieguito Academy. Vedder donated proceeds from a 2006 Pearl Jam concert in San Diego toward the construction of a theater for the school in the name of his former drama teacher, Clayton E. Liggett. Liggett was Vedder's mentor in high school. Vedder wrote the song "Long Road" (from Merkin Ball) upon hearing of Liggett's death in 1995.
Vedder is a friend of The Who guitarist Pete Townshend and former Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell. Townshend talked Vedder out of retiring in 1993. In late 2007, Vedder wrote the foreword to a new Pete Townshend biography, Who Are You: The Life of Pete Townshend. The book was published in the UK in March 2008 and in the U.S. in October 2008. Vedder was a close friend of the late Ramones guitarist Johnny Ramone, with Vedder being at his side when he died. Since Ramone's death, Vedder and Pearl Jam have played the Ramones' "I Believe in Miracles" regularly at live shows. While driving home from Ramone's funeral, Vedder wrote the lyrics for the Pearl Jam song "Life Wasted" (from Pearl Jam). He is also a friend of famed surfers Kelly Slater, Laird Hamilton, and fellow musicians Jack Johnson and Ben Harper. He was featured with Laird Hamilton in an episode of the documentary series Iconoclasts in 2006. While surfing with Tim Finn in New Zealand on March 25, 1995, Vedder was carried 250 feet (76 m) off the coast and had to be rescued by lifeguards. He also has paddled outrigger canoes on occasion and in 2005 was nearly lost at sea trying to paddle from Moloka'i to Oahu.
Eddie Vedder's August 3, 2007 Wrigley Field visit
Singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during seventh-inning stretch
Throwing ceremonial first pitch
Vedder is a Chicago Bulls fan and a long-time fan of the Chicago Cubs. He is friends with several Chicago sports figures, including former White Sox pitcher Jack McDowell, former Bulls player Dennis Rodman, and former Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood. Vedder was wearing a White Sox hat given to him by McDowell during Pearl Jam's 1992 Saturday Night Live and MTV Unplugged appearances. In November 1993, Vedder and McDowell were involved in a bar room brawl in New Orleans, Louisiana that resulted in Vedder being arrested for public drunkenness and disturbing the peace. The Pearl Jam song "Black, Red, Yellow" (from the "Hail, Hail" single) is about the Rodman/Michael Jordan/Phil Jackson-era Chicago Bulls teams. The middle of the song features a voice-mail message Rodman left for Vedder asking Vedder to return his call. Vedder sang the national anthem before the third game of the 1998 NBA Finals in Chicago, and has sung "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" at five Cubs games since 1998. In 2007, a few days before performing with Pearl Jam in Chicago for Lollapalooza, he threw out the first pitch at Wrigley Field, the home of the Cubs. Vedder wrote a song at the request of former Cubs shortstop and first baseman Ernie Banks paying tribute to the Cubs called "All the Way". On September 18, 2008, the song was made available for digital download via Pearl Jam's official website for US$0.99.