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 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 20s sang in the bands Bad Radio and Indian Style, with future Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave drummer Brad Wilk. He founded the band Pearl Jam with Mother Love Bone guitarist Stone Gossard and three others in 1990.  The band was named for Vedder’s great-grandmother Pearl’s homemade jam. The band released its first album, Ten, in 1991 and it eventually sold 12 million copies.

With its dark lyrics about depression, suicide and angst, Seattle-based Pearl Jam 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 multi-platinum. The band went on a 1995 European tour with Neil Young and collaborated with him for his 1995 album Mirror Ball.

Vedder made a name for himself unaffiliated with Pearl Jam. He 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 his nonbelief widely known. 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.” (New Musical Express, Jan. 17, 1998.)

In 2017 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Pearl Jam. Vedder was ranked at number 7 in 2011 on a list of “Best Lead Singers of All Time” compiled by Rolling Stone. In 1994 he married Hovercraft bass player Beth Liebling. They divorced in 2000. He married his longtime girlfriend, model Jill McCormick, in 2010. They have two daughters, Olivia and Harper.

Freedom From Religion Foundation