Saturday, December 12, 2015


     It was Better Man that originally introduced me to Pearl Jam.

     I remember the day well. I was 14, a freshman, searching for new music, delving ever deeper (as usual) into everything there was to hear and experience from the wide world of alternative music.

     I had remembered hearing Better Man on the rock radio stations as a kid. Both of my parents seemed to like the song, and it's obvious aesthetically dark nature almost immediately reinserted itself into my evolving punk-rock-themed mind. I strolled into a local record store with a few bucks to spend, found Vitalogy (the album Better Man debuted on), and purchased it.

     That album would become one of the most influential records that I have ever had the pleasure of owning.

     I immediately fell in love with the brutal, intense power of Pearl Jam's songs. I felt as if I had found the Led Zeppelin of the 90's. The strength packed like a brick wall behind every song; the sincerity and energy in Eddie Vedder's voice; the deep, spiritual meanings behind the lyrics. The angry honesty.

     By the time I was 16, Pearl Jam had ascended to one of my most beloved bands and cherished records. I listened to them (along with Nirvana) pretty much on a daily basis. But the most beautiful, and enjoyable, aspect of absorbing and experiencing the powerhouse that is Pearl Jam... was the emotion.

     I remember the way I felt so angry, and yet so determined, focused, and centered when I listened to them. It made me want to think, to move, to walk, to sing, to scream along-- anything but keep sitting on my ass and doing nothing.

     I felt their songs so much... the activity, the anger, the energy, all of it. I felt the abandonment in Alive; the controlled, subdued, yet teeming life in Even Flow; the building anger with society in Jeremy; the urgency in State of Love and Trust. I lived the hope of Dissident; the thrashing energy of Spin the Black Circle; the chaotic confusion in Corduroy; the violation in Not For You; the depression and loss in Black. The melodic memory behind Daughter; the spiritual harmony within Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town; the bleakness in Immortality; the dying want and passion of Better Man. The rejection in Nothingman; the heartache in Last Kiss; the poignancy in Man of the Hour; the brilliant vocal ranges of Yellow Ledbetter.

     I felt so close to the band, as if they had drawn me in to this secret friendship, this mutual understanding of human emotionalism. They just had so much power, so much intensity and energy, so much... to say. To offer.

     In a lot of ways, Eddie Vedder became this musical parental figure to me. I looked up to him (and still do), the way a son looks up to his experienced, guiding father. I clung to his lyrics, his voice, his unforgettable, undeniable power. It was so raw, so starking. I treasured it. As all from their generation and on have.

     I am so indescribably thankful for them, as well as their messages. Their messages of the unfair limits placed upon human beings by the power-hungry in the outer world, and the fear within the mind. A deep, burning respect for truth-- meaning, definition, significance, and conscience. An angry empathy for those who don't conform to overbearing, apathetic, systematic thought.

     And encouragement! An encouragement to living a lfe of non-herd-conformity, of thought, of feeling, of definition!

     It is this very spirit of music, this raw, angry, empathetic encouragement, that is found in Pearl Jam, along with all other history-changing, aesthetic, beautiful, purposeful music.

     And it is what has made Pearl Jam immortal.

" 'Son,' she said,
'Have I got a little story for you.
What you thought was your daddy
Was nothing but a fool.
While you were sitting home alone at age 13,
Your real father was dyin.
Sorry you didn't see him,
But I'm glad we talked.'

Oh, I, oh I'm still alive.

Oh, she walks slowly
Across the young man's room
And she said, 'I'm ready
For you.'
I can't remember anything to this very day
'Cept the look... the look
You know where.
Now I can't see, so I just stare.

Ah, I, ah I'm still alive.

'Is something wrong?' she said.
'Well of course there is.'
'You're still alive.' she said.
'Oh, and do I deserve to be?!
Is that the question?
And if so, if so,
Who answers?
Who answers?!'

I, oh, oh, I'm still alive."

--Alive, from the album Ten

Thanks for reading,


p.s. stay tuned for an article in tribute to Scott Weiland:

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