Eddie Vedder Biography

Activist, Singer(1964–)
Musician and activist Eddie Vedder rose to fame as lead singer of Pearl Jam, a band that popularized the grunge rock movement in the early 1990s.

Synopsis

Born in Illinois in 1964, grunge rock icon Eddie Vedder joined the band that became Pearl Jam in 1990. Their first album, Ten (1991), became a huge hit on the strength of tracks like "Alive," and "Jeremy," and their two follow-up records also went multiplatinum. Along with his longtime association with the band, the musician has contributed to numerous films, with his work for Into the Wild (2007) doubling as his first solo album. Vedder is also a noted activist, having raised funds for various causes, most notably the release of the West Memphis Three from prison.

Early Years

Rocker Eddie Vedder was born Edward Louis Severson III on December 23, 1964, in Evanston, Illinois. His parents divorced shortly afterward, and his mother soon remarried and opened a group home that provided for several foster children. For many years, Vedder was led to believe that his stepfather was his biological dad. The angst he felt when he finally discovered the truth fueled much of his later music, including the creation of one of Pearl Jam's earliest hits, "Alive."

Following the family's relocation to San Diego County, Vedder moved out of his tense home and attempted to support himself through high school. He eventually dropped out of school altogether, and after his mom divorced again, he adopted her maiden name and rejoined her in Chicago.

Carrying a passion for music—groups like the Sex Pistols, the Who, the Ramones and Black Flag were big influences—Vedder returned to Southern California in 1984 and became a fixture at nightclubs. He also joined several bands, including one called Bad Radio, and worked on developing his sound between stints as a hotel security guard and gas station attendant.

Pearl Jam Frontman

Vedder was one of the last members to join the group that became Pearl Jam. In 1990, former Mother Love Bone guitarist Stone Gossard had started a new band that consisted of bassist Jeff Ament and lead guitarist Mike McCready. Needing lyrics for some music he and his bandmates had created, Gossard turned to Jack Irons, formerly of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Irons, who lived in Southern California and had become friends with Vedder, passed a demo tape of the group on to the prospective singer. Vedder set to work and wrote the lyrics to the songs that became "Alive," "Once" and "Footsteps." When Gossard listened to Vedder's tape, he immediately called him and invited him up to Seattle to join the group.

With drummer Dave Krusen on board, Pearl Jam released Ten in 1991. The debut album featured Vedder's impassioned vocals as he belted out tracks like "Alive," "Even Flow" and "Black" above the band's powerful, classic rock-influenced sound. Additionally, Ten included the hit single "Jeremy," which was accompanied by a dramatic video that quickly fell into heavy rotation on MTV and powered the album to the top of the charts.

Along with bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden, Pearl Jam blazed a new path for a growing contingent of grunge artists, bringing the genre to the forefront of America's youth culture. As it did, the group explored hard subjects like angst, depression and suicide, giving a voice to a new generation of teenagers and young adults known as Generation X.

Furthering their anti-mainstream stance, Pearl Jam refused to produce any videos for songs from their second release, Vs. (1993), which featured a new drummer, Dave Abbruzzese. Additionally, they entered a heated battle with Ticketmaster over service fees and exclusive arena contracts, leading to a U.S. Department of Justice investigation and the cancellation of the group's 1994 summer tour. Pearl Jam partnered with another ticket distributor and attempted to play at smaller venues, though their battle fizzled out when the Department of Justice ceased its investigation after a year.

Meanwhile, the band released a third album, Vitalogy, in late 1994. Featuring yet another drummer, this time Vedder's friend Jack Irons, Vitalogy quickly climbed to the top of the charts and became the group's third straight effort to reach multiplatinum status. “We're still just being brutally honest and giving it our best,” said Vedder in an interview with Spin.

The release of No Code in 1996 marked a new chapter for the band. Along with its forays into garage rock and psychedelia, the album failed to generate the massive sales of its predecessors following a strong debut. Pearl Jam returned to a sound more consistent with their roots with Yield in 1998, and even resumed creating videos and arena touring to promote their releases. Subsequent albums like Binaural (2000) and Riot Act (2002) were generally well received, as were a series of live performances that were often released simultaneously.

Collaborations and Solo Efforts

Vedder forged a strong relationship with Neil Young through recording and touring with Pearl Jam, and even inducted the legendary artist into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. In 2001, the two teamed with Mike McCready to perform an acclaimed version of the Vedder-penned "Long Road" at a tribute concert to victims of the 9/11 attacks.

Among his many collaborations, the singer appeared at the Ramones' final concert, a performance captured on their 1997 album We're Outta Here!, and joined The Who for what became the Live at the Royal Albert Hall (2003) three-disc set. Vedder has also recorded alongside such artists as Cat Power, the Strokes and R.E.M.

Beginning with his work for the drama Dead Man Walking (1995), Vedder has contributed to several feature film soundtracks. He wrote the wistful track "Man of the Hour," which played during the closing credits of Big Fish (2003) and earned a Golden Globe nomination, and paired with Ben Harper to deliver the powerful "No More" for the documentary Body of War (2007).

Additionally, Vedder was tapped to provide vocals for the soundtrack of Into the Wild (2007), which doubled as his first solo album. His follow-up effort, Ukulele Songs (2011), a compilation of ukulele-based originals and covers, earned a Grammy nomination for Best Folk Album.

Still, there was no turning away from the group that made him famous. Vedder joined his longtime bandmates to create Backspacer (2009), Pearl Jam's ninth studio album and their first to top the Billboard 200 since No Code in 1996. The group's next release, Lightning Bolt (2013), also debuted atop the Billboard chart.

Activism and Personal Life

In addition to his musical projects, Vedder is one of the industry's most vocal activists. In 2006, he and his bandmates created the Vitalogy Foundation, non-profit organization that supports programs in the fields of community health, the environment, education and social change. Additionally, Vedder co-founded the EB Research Partnership, which raises funds and awareness for a childhood skin disorder. 

The singer was also a high-profile supporter of the West Memphis Three, a trio of teenagers imprisoned for the murders of three boys in 1993. Drawn in by a 1996 documentary that brought to light a disorganized investigation and inconclusive evidence, Vedder performed benefit concerts for the defendants. After the introduction of new forensic evidence, the West Memphis Three earned their release in 2011.

In 1994, Vedder married Beth Liebling, co-founder of the Seattle-based experimental instrumental group Hovercraft. The couple divorced in 2000. In 2010, he married his longtime girlfriend, Jill McCormick, at a small ceremony in Hawaii. The guest list included Sean Penn and singer Jack Johnson. Vedder and McCormick are the parents of two girls, Olivia and Harper Moon.

Vedder enjoys surfing and is a noted fan of Chicago-based sports teams. During the Chicago Cubs' run to the World Series in 2016, he was spotted at games with fellow famed Cubs fan Bill Murray.

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