MUSIC FRIDAY. (2000 & BEYOND)

Pearl Jam is an American rock band that formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1990. Since its inception, the band’s line-up has included Stone Gossard (guitar), Jeff Ament (bass), Mike McCready (guitar), and Eddie Vedder (vocals). The band’s fifth and current drummer is Matt Cameron, of Soundgarden, who has been with the band since 1998.

Formed after the demise of Gossard and Ament’s previous band, Mother Love Bone, Pearl Jam broke into the mainstream with its debut album, Ten, in 1991. One of the key bands of the grunge movement in the early 1990s, over the course of the band’s career, its members became noted for their refusal to adhere to traditional music industry practices, including refusing to make music videos, giving interviews and engaging in a much-publicized boycott of Ticketmaster. In 2006, Rolling Stone described the band as having “spent much of the past decade deliberately tearing apart their own fame.”

To date, the band has sold over 31.5 million records in the U.S, and an estimated 60 million worldwide. Pearl Jam has outlasted and outsold many of its contemporaries from the alternative rock breakthrough of the early 1990s, and is considered one of the most influential bands of the decade. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic referred to Pearl Jam as “the most popular American rock & roll band of the ’90s.”

Throughout its career, Pearl Jam has promoted wider social and political issues, from pro-choice sentiments to opposition to George W. Bush’s presidency. Vedder acts as the band’s spokesman on these issues. The band has promoted an array of causes, including awareness of Crohn’s disease, which Mike McCready suffers from, Ticketmaster venue monopolization and the environment and wildlife protection, among others.

The band, and especially frontman Eddie Vedder, have been vocal supporters of the pro-choice movement. In 1992, Spin printed an article by Vedder, entitled “Reclamation”, which detailed his views on abortion. In an MTV Unplugged concert the same year, Vedder stood on a stool and wrote “PRO-CHOICE!” on his arm in protest when the band performed the song “Porch”. The band are members of a number of pro-choice organizations, including Choice USA and Voters for Choice.

As members of Rock the Vote and Vote for Change, the band has encouraged voter registration and participation in United States elections. Vedder was outspoken in support of Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader in 2000, and Pearl Jam played a series of concerts on the Vote for Change tour in October 2004, supporting the candidacy of John Kerry for U.S. President. In a Rolling Stone feature showcasing the Vote for Change tour’s performers, Vedder told the magazine, “I supported Ralph Nader in 2000, but it’s a time of crisis. We have to get a new administration in.”

Vedder sometimes comments on politics between songs, often to criticize U.S. foreign policy, and a number of his songs, including “Bu$hleaguer” and “World Wide Suicide”, are openly critical of the Bush administration. At Lollapalooza 2007, Vedder spoke out against BP Amoco dumping effluent in Lake Michigan, and at the end of “Daughter”, he sang the lyrics “George Bush leave this world alone/George Bush find yourself another home”. In the beginning of the second encore Vedder invited Iraq war veteran Tomas Young, the subject of the documentary Body of War, onto the stage to urge an end to the war. ┬áThe band has since discovered that some of the Bush-related lyrics were excised from the AT&T webcast of the event, and are questioning whether that constitutes censorship. AT&T later apologized and blamed the censorship on contractor Davie Brown Entertainment.

Pearl Jam has performed numerous benefit concerts in aid of charities. For example, the band headlined a Seattle concert in 2001 to support the United Nations’ efforts to combat world hunger. The band added a date at the Chicago House of Blues to its 2005 tour to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina; the concert proceeds were donated to Habitat for Humanity, the American Red Cross and the Jazz Foundation of America.

In 2011, Pearl Jam was named 2011 Planet Defenders by Rock The Earth for their environmental activism and their large-scale efforts to decrease their own carbon emissions.