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Pearl Jam Thank Indie Influences During Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction

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Pearl Jam were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by late-night legend David Letterman, after their longtime friend and musical collaborator Neil Young couldn’t make it.

“Every night I got to experience the gift and the blessing of live music for 33 years,” said Letterman. “When I came here to rehearsal this afternoon and heard live music again, I was reminded, Oh my God, what a gift live music is. … It’s a delight to be back here for this.” After joking that he was in Mother Love Bone with the members of Pearl Jam, and pointing out that an entire balcony was filled with “former Pearl Jam drummers,” Letterman acknowledged the band’s political and social fights as something that set them apart from other bands. “They would stand up and react,” whether it was for climate change, poverty or “those blood-sucking, beady-eyed, blood-thirsty weasels at Ticketmaster.”

Letterman also shared a personal story about a guitar and letter given to his young son by Vedder. “This is the most important reason they’re in the Hall of Fame,” he said.

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Co-founding guitarist Stone Gossard spoke first, thanking staff and crew who helped keep the band “moving along” through the years, and the fans who’ve supported them over the past 25 years. Mike McCready recalled a “pivotal moment” in his life when two young friends introduced him to Kiss. “I asked my parents for a guitar that night,” he said.

Bassist Jeff Ament recalled moving to Seattle to look for his “tribe” 35 years ago. “It’s an honor and mind-boggling to be part of a club that includes so many of our heroes — Neil, the Clash, [Led] Zeppelin, the Stooges, Cheap Trick. But the fact is we were affected by bands that aren’t here … Roxy Music, the Jam, Devo, X, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Jane’s Addiction. So many others, all worthy.”

Singer Eddie Vedder spoke last, jumping into that political talk Letterman credited them for. “Climate change is real,” he said. “That is not fake news. And we cannot be the generations that history will look back upon and wonder why didn’t they do everything humanly possible to solve this biggest crisis in our time. Anything can be obtainable … the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series, this is proof. I use that analogy in regards to climate change, because it can be done, but we don’t have 108 years to wait.”

Vedder said he was “lucky and grateful. … I’m just grateful to be alive. I want to publicly apologize — making all of my bandmates suffer with a singer who was climbing the rafters and jumping off of balconies. … It was the power of music. I used to hold my whole body up with one finger, but if the music wasn’t playing, I couldn’t do it with both hands. It’s the power of rock ‘n’ roll.”

He thanked many of the indie bands that influenced him over the years, as well as the band’s many drummers over the years. He also thanked fans. “We felt a responsibility to the music that was bigger than ourselves,” he said. “It was you who galvanized us and forged a brotherhood and family. We love hanging out. We love touring. We love playing. We love writing. We love recording.

“I feel like we’re about halfway there to deserve an accolade of this stature,” he concluded. “We’re about halfway there. But this is very encouraging.”

Pearl Jam were elected to the Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. Unfortunately, things didn’t go quite so smoothly after that.

The period leading up to Friday night’s induction ceremony at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn was marked by controversy involving the group’s drummers. Ultimately, Pearl Jam elected to invite all of their former members to the event, though Jeff Ament, Matt Cameron, Gossard, Dave Krusen, McCready and Vedder were inducted.

Cameron is their current drummer; Krusen played on Pearl Jam’s debut, Ten. Matt Chamberlain (1991), Dave Abbruzzese (1991-94, when they released Vs. and Vitalogy) and Jack Irons (1994-98) were also members of the band.

Chamberlain, who stepped in for Krusen for a series of 1991 dates, had already announced that he’d miss the ceremony. He memorably toured with Soundgarden in place of the busy Cameron, who is actually a member of both bands.

Letterman’s Late Show regularly featured Pearl Jam over the years. In all, the band made seven stops at the Ed Sullivan Theatre, including a memorable 2006 appearance when they played a 10-track set for the studio audience. Eddie Vedder also took a solo turn for Letterman. Young was stricken with an undisclosed, though reportedly not major illness.

This year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will debut on HBO at 8PM ET on April 29.

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