“I feel like everyone is culpable”: How Eddie Vedder reacted to the news that Amy Winehouse had died

Eddie Vedder in 2022, Amy Winehouse in 2007
(Image credit: Gareth Cattermole/Christopher Polk/Variety/Getty Images)

Back in July 2011, Eddie Vedder took a seat upstairs in the lounge at Pearl Jam HQ, on the outskirts of Seattle, blew out his cheeks and relayed how he’d narrowly missed getting involved in a multi-vehicle car crash on his way here. “It’s a highway, a ramp so you’re going pretty fast, I turned the corner and it was dead-stopped,” the Pearl Jam frontman explained. “I went sideways, the guy behind me went sideways. It was an accident that had just happened within minutes of another worse one in front of me, that’s why everyone had stopped. It makes you think about life, between that and the Amy Winehouse thing…”

“The Amy Winehouse thing” wasn’t just on Vedder’s mind – it was on everyone’s. Just a few days earlier, the Back To Black singer had been found dead at her home in Camden, north London, a remarkable, game-changing talent gone way too young. I was in Seattle to interview Vedder about the film Cameron Crowe had made about his band, Pearl Jam 20, but first he wanted to discuss Winehouse’s death and what needed to change in the music industry to prevent something similar happening again.

“I feel like in some ways, everyone’s a bit culpable,” he said. “Everyone was almost enjoying seeing pictures of her all fucked up. Hopefully when they detangle all this, they make changes and laws and protect people and take away some of the power of those that just use their position for greed, even if it means stealing someone’s privacy.”

Being a successful artist, he said, wasn’t something that could work in the long-term if you weren’t looking after yourself. In the end, something has to give. “You just wonder with someone with that kind of talent, y’know, making records takes time and going on tour, you need to be healthy to withstand the travel and playing for however many people at night, you maintain a certain kind of health, in the studio, it takes time to make records,” he said. “It’s almost a shame, without knowing her or knowing anything about her, that she lost a connection to the music or it wasn’t as fulfilling as it was to begin with, because just that alone might have kept her healthier. It did for us. If you maintain a healthy balance of where the music takes great importance, then you’re gonna have to stay healthy to make the music.”

It’s at this point that he turned the focus onto his own band, and gave an insight into what helped Pearl Jam to reach not just their 20th anniversary, but last year’s 30th anniversary too. “I think I can speak for everybody in the group down to the last man that music’s always been the most important thing in our lives,” he offered. “If you ever get to the edge where you start losing it, then music, just like it helped you when you were 14, just like it helped you when you were 18, even now, decades later, it’s still just the most important thing. It’s like losing your wife, or the love of your life, you’re not gonna fuck that up.”

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.