“The pearl is the little organism that has taken the shit and turned it into something beautiful. Maybe that’s part of what we’ve been able to do.” Eddie Vedder on how Pearl Jam got through their toughest moments

Pearl Jam in 2024
(Image credit: Danny Clinch)

Pearl Jam are now 34 years and counting into their career, a much-cherished rock band long established as playing some of the most euphoric live shows you could witness on planet Earth, a group at ease with themselves and what they do. But it has been a hard-fought victory. Pearl Jam did not arrive at this place without overcoming hurdles… giant hurdles.

There have been deaths of friends, collaborators and peers – Kurt Cobain, Chris Cornell, Layne Staley, 7 Year Bitch’s Stefanie Sargent to name just a few – and devastatingly there was the tragedy at Roskilde in 2000 when nine people died during a crowd crush as Pearl Jam performed. Speaking to this writer in 2011, Eddie Vedder said that looking back over their career and seeing how they’d made their way through tough times had resulted in a new appreciation of the moniker they’d given themselves way back in 1990.

“We hadn’t thought about this with our name,” Vedder said, “but the pearl is the little organism that taken the shit, taken the bad stuff and turned it into something beautiful. Maybe that’s part of what we’ve been able to do.”

Vedder added that he thinks the key to the longevity of the band is that they all went through the same thing together and emerged intact. “It’s like putting a medal in the fire… We want to make each other proud – I want them to be proud of their guy, and I’m proud of mine. It shouldn’t be that hard – we’re a fucking rock band! We’re into long-term relationships this group, in our personal lives, with each other as bandmates, and with the audience, there’s a long-term relationship there.”

For UK fans, that means a long-distance relationship too, where we only see each other every few years. Thankfully, though, Eddie & co. will be paying us a visit before the summer is out…

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.