Pearl Jam is a rock music band and a member of Vote for Change, a coalition of musicians that held October 2004 concerts in election “battleground” states to proselytize and raise money for the group America Coming Together (ACT) to defeat President George W. Bush in the November election.
The Seattle-based band made its national debut in 1991 with the heavy-rock album Ten on the Epic (which later became the Sony Music Entertainment, Inc.) label, the first of at least eight studio albums it would produce by 2002. Pearl Jam also released more than 70 albums of live concert performances from 1995 through 2001, as well as dozens of singles.
One of Pearl Jam’s best-known videos (and songs) is “Jeremy,” which gives an empathetic view of a troubled student who, at the video’s conclusion, commits lethal violence involving his classmates and teacher; the video ends on images of their blood-soaked bodies. Lead singer and lyricist Eddie Vedder has said this song was inspired by the 1991 classroom suicide of a Richardson, Texas high-school student named Jeremy who used a handgun to shoot himself in the head and splatter his blood on his teacher and classmates. The video is ambiguous, however, and in a 1997 Washington court case was described as paralleling the life of a teenager who killed three people in 1996. Critics have said that this video sympathetically depicts lethal violence.
One feature of past Pearl Jam tours has been an illegal 75-watt “pirate” radio station set up to transmit at concert stops. This station broadcasts selections from the group’s albums. “In between cuts,” wrote journalist K. Lloyd Billingsley, “a male monotone voice oozing vulgar Marxism droned on about manipulation of the media, the evils of corporations, and the sins of America generally. The recorded voice belonged to Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Noam Chomsky, the linguistic theorist and hard-core leftist whose career has bizarrely branched into the music business.”
Pearl Jam recently contributed its song “Down” for use in the film documentary Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, based on the views of Marxist historian Howard Zinn. The band’s website glorifies Zinn, filmmaker Michael Moore, the publication Z Magazine, the Air America Radio network, and many other websites and publications of the radical left.
Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder (born Edward Louis Seversen III in 1964 in Evanston, Illinois) supported Green Party candidate Ralph Nader in the 2000 presidential election. In 2004 Vedder supported Democratic candidate John F. Kerry. “Right now, it’s a different situation,” Vedder told the Los Angeles Times that year. “It’s hard to talk about remodeling the house when the basement is on fire” — a reference to the urgency of defeating George W. Bush, whose first term had allegedly done great harm to the United States. “This is the fourth presidential election which Pearl Jam has engaged in as a band,” said Vedder, “and we feel it’s the most important one of our lifetime.”
Vedder is one of the chief spokesmen for Vote for Change.