The group, who will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017, is unlike other Seattle bands. Nobody died; they never moved away; they never broke up; and they kept making great albums.
The announcement Tuesday that Pearl Jam would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s class of 2017 was greeted in Seattle as if a great election victory finally came to the city. Facebook and Twitter lit up with fans writing, “Yes!” and that message wasn’t about the band Yes, who will also be inducted next year.
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Pearl Jam goes into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Yes (Seattle drummer Alan White is in Yes), Tupac Shakur, Journey, Electric Light Orchestra and Joan Baez. The induction is at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on April 7, with a later HBO broadcast.
Pearl Jam’s selection was a foregone conclusion ever since they were announced as being on the short list. They join the Ventures, Heart, Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana as Seattle-area inductees in the Hall.
What is most noteworthy about Pearl Jam’s induction is that the band was selected in its first year of eligibility (25 years after its debut record). Nirvana also made it in its first year, but that’s relatively rare. Fellow 2017 inductee Baez, for example, would technically have been eligible in 1987.
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The Hall’s selection committee has become more populist over the years, and they now allow fan voting to influence selection. Journey received the most fan votes, but Pearl Jam wasn’t far behind. And though most in Seattle celebrated Pearl Jam, the inductee list was also bittersweet for fans of Alice In Chains and Soundgarden, both eligible before Pearl Jam, but neither so far on the list.
It would be hard, though, to overestimate how beloved Pearl Jam is in Seattle, and how closely the band and the city are associated. Nirvana formed in Aberdeen, and Kurt Cobain didn’t move to Seattle until the last year of his life. Heart was a Seattle band, but it broke through initially in clubs in Canada. Hendrix’s induction was for his London band.
Pearl Jam, in contrast, was made in Seattle. They played their first show at the Off Ramp (now El Corazon) in 1990, and have stayed local (though singer Eddie Vedder moved from San Diego initially).
Since that moment, Pearl Jam has stayed rooted in the Seattle consciousness. They went nationwide in 1992, when “Ten” went to the top of the charts, but that didn’t change the band. Unlike other Seattle bands, nobody died, they never moved away, they never broke up, and they kept making great albums. Matt Cameron is the fifth Pearl Jam drummer, but the rest of the band — Vedder, Mike McCready, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament — is the same.
In 2002, I asked McCready, Gossard and Ament if they thought Pearl Jam would be inducted into the Hall of Fame. This was only 10 years into the band’s history, when the idea of any ’90s-era group in a hall made up of original greats seemed far-fetched. All three laughed.
Gossard did address how Pearl Jam handled fame and pressure: “If you just let go of that stuff and stay true to what you are doing, it can turn out differently than it seemed possible.”
“We can still talk to each other,” added McCready.
And then Gossard in just a couple sentences summed up why Pearl Jam functions as a “real” band, why Seattle loves them, and maybe part of the reason they’ve made it to the Rock Hall: “The sum is greater than the parts. That’s the only mantra that there is. That’s how we’ve survived.”