Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder is the last remaining, original lead singer of a string of Seattle sound bands that emerged in the 1990s.
Before you can grab your flannel and grunge playlist, just remember the stark reminder that many of the bands in the 1990s Seattle sound era do not resemble what they once were.
Alice in Chains still stay in the hearts and minds of many fans, and as recently as September 3 Code Orange put their own spin on the classic ‘Down In A Hole’ power ballad. They continue to cause debate among diehards who argue which album was the most influential – Dirt or Facelift.
Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil even credits Facelift with loads of bands imitating the sound of AOC from that point on, as he told Spin.
Not that Soundgarden don’t have acclaim themselves. Thayil celebrated his 60th birthday recently and has a legacy as the 100th greatest guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone in 2010, highlighting his great success with six full-length studio albums. Look no further than ‘Flower’ for Thayil’s guitar mystique.
He is as pivotal to the thunderous riffs of the Seattle sound as Alice in Chains were. Alas, both bands share the unenviable trait of losing their lead singers. Layne Staley passed away in 2002 at just 34 years. William DuVall has stepped in since, and shares the vocals with Jerry Cantrell since 2006.
There is no slight on DuVall. But without Staley, ‘Man In The Box,’ a setlist staple, does not sound the same.
Soundgarden’s tragedy came more recently in 2017. Lead singer Chris Cornell passed away aged 52 years in May 2017, and although Thayil joined fellow members Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd for the I Am The Highway: Tribute to Chris Cornell tour, the loss was still raw in January 2019.
Cornell’s influence in pop culture was unmistakable. He even penned the track with band Audioslave for the James Bond Casino Royale movie, ‘You Know My Name.’
Let’s not forget Kurt Cobain of Nirvana. Cobain’s association with the 27 Club should not take away from the legacy in the 1990s that the band achieved. Nevermind absolutely cleaned up at the Grammys and the MTV Music Awards in 1991, and the cover art of the baby in the water chasing the dollar note is ingrained in the cultural zeitgeist.
All of these voices in the 1990s Seattle sound era, and the last one remaining is Eddie Vedder. The Pearl Jam frontman has some regrets, including the infamous June 1995 free concert at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Vedder departed the stage after seven songs due to food poisoning, describing it “one of the worst days of my life. It was so brutal.” He was then replaced by Neil Young who took over.
Still, it would not compare to the loss of “older brother” Chris Cornell. “These things will take time, but my friend is going to be gone forever and I will just have to … These things take time and I just want to send this out to everyone who was affected by it, and they all back home and here appreciate it so deeply, the support and the good thoughts of a man who was a … you know he wasn’t just a friend, he was someone I looked up to like my older brother.”
Eddie Vedder also penned a tribute song to Staley.
The track, dubbed ‘4/20/02’, is not listed on the Lost Dogs album. You can find it several minutes after ‘Bee Girl,’ the last song on the set’s second disc.
As for Nirvana, it was no secret that there was a rivalry between Cobain and Vedder. Cobain’s music was more acclaimed, LA Times wrote in 1994, but Vedder’s was more popular. Cobain accused Pearl Jam of being sellouts after the stellar success of their debut album Ten, but after the news of the Nirvana frontman’s death, Vedder acknowledged the pressure he faced.
“Sometimes, whether you like it or not, people elevate you (and) it’s real easy to fall ,” Vedder said.
Being a lead singer of a highly successful grunge band with elements of classic rock is quite the pedestal to fall from. Let’s be grateful Vedder (and Pearl Jam) have made it this far.