Music News

Happy Birthday, Eddie Vedder!

It seems hard to believe that Eddie Vedder turns 47 today. After all, for the past 20 years or so, he's maintained a young, vibrant image as one of the most successful veterans of Seattle's fabled grunge scene, a musician who's successfully transitioned from those insurgent environs into rock's mainstream. While flannel shirts, faded jeans, and hiking boots remain his fashion staples, Vedder -- real name: Edward Louis Severson III -- has clearly matured into an artist of international standing, with his youthful energy and vitality still undiminished.

Although Vedder is best-known as a frontman -- first for the band Temple of the Dog, and, most famously, for Pearl Jam, a gig he's held for 20 years -- he's shown aptitude in other areas as well. It helps that he's charismatic; with his authoritative presence and angst-infused vocals, he's the kind of guy who instantly commands attention. He has gone out on his own, serving up two solo albums (the soundtrack to the film Into the Wild and his latest, Ukulele Songs) while also collaborating with others, making appearances on albums by the Who, the Ramones, Neil Young, R.E.M., Neil Finn, the Strokes, Bad Religion, Cat Power, and John Doe, among many others. He also has a habit of showing up onstage with other performers, as Tom Petty, Pete Townshend, Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Robert Plant, Bryan Adams, Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, Roger Daltrey, R.E.M., the Ramones, Kings of Leon, Dave Grohl, Perry Farrell, Beck, Sheryl Crow, Neil Young, Guided by Voices, Ace Frehley, Dave Matthews, and Johnny Depp can all attest. Whew!

Clearly Vedder's a very busy guy, but we suspect he hasn't even begun to tap his full potential. Given his talent and tenacity, there are several other roles that could provide a perfect fit. So Eddie, we know Pearl Jam's going great, man... but just in case you ever get bored and you need a new gig, here are a few suggestions:

Reopen the Doors by being their new frontman. Vedder sang with the band as part of its 1993 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and he seemed a perfect fit. With his gruff vocals and bearded visage, he could pass for Jim Morrison's illegitimate son... or, when in the company of Morrison's former colleagues, the Lizard King himself. Break on through!

Take Adrian Grenier's place and bring back Entourage. Look, we don't know whose idea it was to terminate one of the best shows on HBO, but suffice it to say we miss it already. Vedder's got the dashing good looks and the All-American attitude to step into the role of a successful ladies' man who possesses the perfect posse. So here's some advice for you TV types -- freshen up the franchise and offer it to Eddie.

Act up, Eddie! Vedder has a modest amount of cinema experience, thanks to a 1992 cameo in the movie Singles, his interview in the 1996 grunge documentary Hype!, an appearance in the 2003 Ramones documentary End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones, and his portrayal of himself in the film Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. He also appeared in the 2007 Tom Petty concert film Runnin' Down a Dream, the 2008 political documentary Slacker Uprising, and the 2009 documentary The People Speak. And of course, he's front and center in the new Pearl Jam 20 documentary as well. He's got the looks, the swagger, and the presence. So why not utilize those talents and make himself a movie star?

• Remake yourself as an outstanding entrepreneur. In his early years, prior to his successful music career, Vedder worked a variety of jobs just to get by. While still in high school, he was working nights, supporting himself and living on his own. He eventually opted to drop out of high school in his senior year due to the pressures of balancing school with making a living. In the early 1980s, he worked as a waiter but also earned his high school GED, then attended community college. Later, he worked part-time at a gas station. Ultimately, Vedder's strong work ethic and variety of job experiences could prepare him for his own corporate concerns. Hey, if he dyed his hair blond, he would even bear a passing similarity to Richard Branson. Both guys are pretty cool, they both have shaggy locks, and they each have beards. You never know.

• Draw on your affinity for athletics. In a word, Vedder's a jock. He enjoys shooting hoops, and because he once lived in the Windy City, he loves all the Chicago teams, whether it's the Bulls, the Bears, or the Cubs. He's also befriended several Chicago sports stars. He sang the national anthem before the third game of the 1998 NBA Finals in Chicago and often leads the Cubs' crowd in hearty renditions of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." In 2007, he even got to throw out the first pitch at a Cubs game. Plus, he's a surfer. Still, the best example of his athletic dexterity came in the form of his early onstage exploits with Pearl Jam, when he would delight audiences with crowd-surfing and stage-diving. Those Pearl Jam performances also found Vedder climbing up the stage rigging and hanging from the roof. Hey, Eddie, channel that energy. There's not all that much difference in the adoration afforded athletes and musicians nowadays, so maybe try out at training camp and see how it goes.

• Go all out for activism. Vedder's been incorporating his left-leaning social and political commentary into his lyrics and performances since early on, and he frequently proselytizes about the failures of U.S. foreign policy as part of his banter between songs. He's espoused numerous causes over the years, from rights of inmates on death row and the ethical treatment of animals to a woman's right to choose, protection for the environment, and the need for conservation. He led his band in a three-year boycott of Ticketmaster and initiated a backlash against BP Oil after it was accused of polluting Lake Michigan. His political choices are hardly a surprise either; he supported Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader in 2000, John Kerry in 2004, and Barack Obama in 2008. Vet it, Vedder -- run for office!

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Lee Zimmerman