Eddie Vedder

On this date in 1964, singer and lyricist Eddie Vedder (né Edward Louis Severson III) was born in Evanston, Ill. With a rocky home life, which included living with seven foster siblings, Vedder changed his name to his mother's maiden name when he learned that his father was actually his stepfather. His family in the mid-1970s, moved to San Diego, where Vedder picked up surfing as a pastime, but he returned to Chicago to briefly attend community college in the early 1980s. Musically he was influenced by rock and punk bands such as The Who, The Doors, U2, The Sex Pistols, The Ramones and Black Flag. Vedder, in his twenties, sang in the bands Bad Radio and Indian Style, with future Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave drummer, Brad Wilk. Then Vedder met with unexpected, and, according to him, unwanted fame when he co-founded the band Pearl Jam with Mother Love Bone guitarist Stone Gossard and three other skilled rock musicians. (The band was so named for Vedder's great grandmother Pearl's delectable homemade jam). The band released its first album, Ten, in 1991, and it quickly hit the top of the charts and eventually sold 12 million copies. With its dark lyrics about depression, suicide and angst, Pearl Jam, based in Seattle, became the band of choice for so-called "Generation X" teens. Anti-mainstream, Pearl Jam refused to produce any videos for its second album, Vs (1993), and canceled its summer 1994 tour when Vedder entered a heated battle with Ticketmaster for charging what he felt were unreasonable fees. (The Justice Department sided with Ticketmaster in 1995). Pearl Jam's third album, Vitalogy (1994), went multiplatinum and featured a new drummer, Jack Irons from Red Hot Chili Peppers. The band went on a 1995 European tour with Neil Young, and collaborated with him for his 1995 album, Mirror Ball.

Eddie Vedder has also made a name for himself individually, unaffiliated with Pearl Jam. Vedder wrote the songs and performed for the popular soundtracks of "Dead Man Walking" (1995), "I Am Sam" (2001), and "Into the Wild" (2007). He is an outspoken environmentalist, vegetarian and pro-choice advocate. Vedder has made widely known his nonbelief. In a Rolling Stone interview he said, "When you're out in the desert, you can't believe the amount of stars. We've sent mechanisms out there, and they haven't found anything. They've found different colors of sand, and rings and gases, but nobody's shown me anything that makes me feel secure in what happens afterward. All I really believe in is this moment, like right now. And that, actually, is what the whole album [Ten] talks about" ("Right Here, Right Now," 1991). At a July 22, 1998 Pearl Jam concert in Seattle's Memorial Stadium, Vedder said of the good weather, "I would thank God, but I don't believe in it." In a UK interview with John Robinson, Vedder noted, "[T]he word 'religion' has such bad connotations for me, that it's been responsible for wars, and it shouldn't be that way at all, it's just the way the meaning of the word has evolved to me. I have to wonder what we did on this planet before religion" (NME, "It's Getting Vedder (Man!!)," Jan. 17, 1998).

Janeane Garofalo: Can I ask what your feelings are about God?

Eddie Vedder: Sure. I think it's like a movie that was way too popular. It's a story that's been told too many times and just doesn't mean anything. Man lived on the planet — [placing his fingers an inch apart], this is 5000 years of semi-recorded history. And God and the Bible, that came in somewhere around the middle, maybe 2000. This is the last 2000, this is what we're about to celebrate [indicating about an 1/8th of an inch with his fingers]. Now, humans, in some shape or form, have been on the earth for three million years [pointing across the room to indicate the distance]. So, all this time, from there [gesturing toward the other side of the room], to here [indicating the 1/8th of an inch], there was no God, there was no story, there was no myth and people lived on this planet and they wandered and they gathered and they did all these things. The planet was never threatened. How did they survive for all this time without this belief in God? I'd like to ask this to someone who knows about Christianity and maybe you do. That just seems funny to me.

JG: Funny ha-ha or funny strange?

EV: Funny strange. Funny bad. Funny frown. Not good. That laws are made and wars occur because of this story that was written, again, in this small part of time.

—Eddie Vedder in an interview with 

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

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