A quarter of a century after they released their 13-times platinum debut, Ten, Pearl Jam remain one of rock’s biggest bands. They had sprung into the world’s consciousness with a mix of aggressive and emotional songs and have since refined their palate in order to write expansive, transformative rockers. Their last two albums have reached Number One on the Billboard charts, and they’ve never put out a studio album that has charted lower than Number Five. Moreover, they still tour regularly – having once taken on the concert industry by challenging Ticketmaster – and they still play two-hour sets to packed arenas.
On Friday night, the band appeared at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center to accept their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, following a speech by retired talk-show host David Letterman. The band’s current lineup – Eddie Vedder, Mike McCready, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament and Matt Cameron – all appeared onstage to make speeches marking the achievement, as did founding drummer Dave Krusen. Read the band’s full speech below.
Stone Gossard: Maybe the most important reason we came tonight is not to receive this honor, but to honor those who have worked so hard for this band, to help it function. All of us can fill sheets of paper with the many names, of our loving family members, our oldest and dearest friends, our influences, our idols, our collaborators, our counselors, our contributors, the people who mediated for us and assisted us in countless ways. They disagreed with us, respected us, encouraged us, gave us shoulders to lean on and cry on. They [dealt with] boring paperwork, endless organizing, agonizing phone calls, computer work, torturous floods, drives, terrible conditions. They’ve hung lighting ramps around countless tables. Purchased thousands of tambourines. Changed tens of thousands of batteries. And even vacuumed our rooms, all to keep this band living on.
To all these people we give our most sincere and dearest thanks. Your hard work and love and dedication means that this award is as much for you as it is for us. We give our sincerest thanks to George, Kerry, Liz, Simon, our manager Josh, Liam, Donny, Nicole, Kevin, Brett, Jimmy, Jimmy V, Andy, Sarah, Dave, Pete, Sonny, Larry, Jesse, Key, Dan, Tom, Peter, Mellie, Gary, Pharrell, Anna, Ellie, Mark, thank you so much. Tim P, Rob, Ryan, Avery, Will, Barron, Jess, Christian, Ziggy, Janie, Betsy, Scully, Jacquelyn, Margo, Rod, Diana, Ryan. Thank you to all the incredible artists who have created all of our incredible tour posters. But even more importantly than all of those folks, we want to thank our fans. Whose belief in us has carried us through the times where we didn’t believe or we lost hope or we lost each other. Thank you so much to the greater Pearl Jam community. Keep doing what you’re doing. We’re having so much fun watching you. And lastly, I would like to thank our amazing wives, my amazing wife, Vivian, her beautiful family, our beautiful children, my mom and dad, my sisters and their families. Thank you all for giving us this opportunity.
Dave Krusen: I’d like to thank the Hall of Fame. Pearl Jam saved my life. And to my family, my kids, I love you guys. Thank you.
Matt Cameron: I would just like to thank my, my muse, my girl, my one special lady, April Cameron. My beautiful children, Ray and Josie. I would like to thank my parents for letting me practice drums in their house for probably a decade or so. I really appreciate that. My brother and sister for taking me to my first concert, David Bowie, Station to Station, 1977. I would like to thank my brothers in Pearl Jam for inviting me into their incredible [band]. We so appreciate the fans and the life’s blood that you give to our art form of rock and roll. Thank you.
Mike McCready: Woo! That feels good. We’re in pivoting moments of the changing forever. I’ve had nine of these. But the first was in 1976. I was a boy scout. One day, at eleven years old, when my friends Danny and Rick told me about the rock band, Kiss. I asked my parents for a guitar that night. I want to thank my mom, Louise McCready, for her love and support for teaching me about Warhol, the Rolling Stones and dying my hair. My dad, Roy McCready, thank you for giving me love and guidance and teaching me to train my mind, body and spirit. Thank you to my first band Shadow and for letting me practice five days a week for six years in their house. Thank you so much. To my second band, Pearl Jam, you’re my brothers. I love you. I love you guys. I love your family. You guys did it right, but we’re only as good as the people that are around us. Our manager, Kelly Curtis, Michelle Anthony, Michael Goldstone, Nicole Vandenberg, George Well, Johnny, Chris Adams, Brennan O’Brien and everyone at our offices. Our fan club, our road crew, and every person that holds us up.
I want to thank the Red Hot Chili Peppers for taking us out with the band and to the many bands that inspired me. Many that inspired me. Cheap Trick, Queen, Bowie, Hendrix, the Stones, Beatles, UFO, Kraftwork, Ramones, Brandi Carlile, the Kills, Social Distortion, Muddy Waters, Sex Pistols, the Clash, and my new favorite band, Thunder Pussy. My friends and family, a lot of you are here tonight. You bring me laughter and teach me how to live. I love all of you. All my friends and family are here tonight. All of our fans, thank you for hanging out with us before we go. Thank you to my amazing wife, Ashley, for keeping it all together, keeps my work together. I love you. 143. And our kids, Kaya, Jackson, and Henry, you inspire me to be a better parent. Alright. Thank you.
Jeff Ament: When I was 13, my uncle Pat gave me some singles, which was, the key to a well-respected man. This coincided with reading Death of a Salesman, in 7th grade class. After that I was put in a course never to be Willy Loman, which somehow correlated to a lifetime of playing bands, so if I seem a little bit nervous, blame Arthur Miller as I’ve never been very comfortable in a room full of seats. In 1983, I moved to Seattle, looking for my tribe. Other artists, musicians, individuals, hard workers, skateboarders. I found a lot of these folks – many are still my friends. I met Stone a month after moving to Seattle. At those first Seattle punk rock shows, I met Stone almost thirty-five years ago, which ultimately led me to our band community.
Being here with the band, who have become some of my best friends in the process, making music and art, traveling the world, supporting causes and programs together, making small differences, meeting great artists and creative minds all over the world. That’s a pretty great fucking life. It’s an honor in to be part of a club that includes so many of our heroes – Neil, the Clash, Zeppelin, the Stooges, Cheap Trick – but the fact is that we were affected by bands that aren’t here. So many important bands that made us want to pick up our guitars and right songs. But the very best part about tonight is that my mom, who gave me the keys to the piano and my dad, who taught me about hard work and community, they’re here with my family. So this is for every small town kid who has a dream. Thanks to everybody who supports us and inspires us. You’re great fans. Everybody who works with us with the band. Kelly, George have been with us for 27 years, 26 years. Thank you. Love you.
Eddie Vedder: You’re kind. Thank you so much. I guess I’d like to start by thanking all those who came before us. The tetrapods, the primates, the homo erectus. [Laughter.] Without them, we would be so much less evolved. And here we are on our modern technology, advanced technology age and we’ve got a lot of evolving to do. It’s evolution, baby. Climate change is real. That is not fake news. And we cannot, cannot be the generation the history of the world will look back on and wonder why they didn’t do anything humanly possible to solve the biggest crisis in our time. Anything can be obtainable. The Chicago Cubs winning the World Series. This is proof. And I use that analogy because, in regards to climate change, because it can be done, but here’s the thing, we don’t have 108 years to wait.
I’m lucky and grateful – two things I am every day. And I’m just grateful to be alive. And I also … I want to publicly apologize, you know, all of the, making our bandmates, making my bandmates suffer. For the singer who was flapping down the rafters and hanging off of bikes and jumping off of balconies. They really didn’t deserve that. But, you know, they didn’t know that the person that they gave the job to, that their singer was really an Evil Knievel. But it was also about music. I swear, I used to be able to hold my whole body up with one finger. But if the music wasn’t playing, I couldn’t do it with both hands.
When I think about high altitudes, I think about my wife, Jill. Honey, I thought you were sitting down in front. But, it’s so important, you know, especially if that kite gets way higher in the air, you really have to trust the person holding the line. And that person has to be loyal and believe in you and have to have the strength to reel you back, so my wife, Jill, I thank you. And … I’m looking forward to all our beautiful days on ground together. And I’m glad I get to hold the chord for you and you get to soar as you do. My two daughters, I’m trying to teach them everything I know, and they teach me the rest. Which is more of than what I do know. And if somehow, some way, Chance the Rapper ever sees or hears this, I just want to tell him, my daughter really loves you. And I also, Chance, want to thank you for all the great work you’re doing in Chicago. That gives us all hope.
I just love them more than anything, and that’s a lot, it says a lot because I really love the Who! And the Ramones and the Band and Guided By Voices, and the list goes on because I listen to music every day of my life. And … a lot of that was in small apartments, when I grew up, we lived in some tight spaces with my family, my mom and my brothers. My mom, she did really good parenting. She wouldn’t tell us to turn it down, she would just kind of end up being fans of the bands that we were playing really loudly. And my brothers who I grew up listening to music with together, I always will try to play our songs and our new songs to them first. They’re such good brothers. They’ve known me long enough. They know when I’m pulling some kind of bullshit. So they keep me honest and keep the records true.
You know, how lucky I was to meet Jack Irons. I’m working as a crew guy in San Diego before my night shift, and I get to meet Jack, and it was the original drummer in the Chili Peppers. He also was a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame already. He’s here tonight. Without meeting him, none of this would’ve happened. I’m not in this building. I’m probably not even on the planet. Jack, thanks so much. Thanks for your friendship. Somehow when you’re so fortunate, you know, when you have a few drinks, and you’re taking that seat in the jump school or at the throne, is they’re all kings. We’re so fortunate. Every one of them is great. Matt Cameron’s really been the one. At a time when we didn’t know if – we weren’t sure what was going to happen – he had been able not just to survive, but to thrive.
I mean, he’s been one of my brothers. And he was going to end up receiving this happily with us or his other group. So he’ll be back. He’s a great drummer. You are a great drummer! And Matt Chamberlain, Jack, who we got to play with this week for the first time in 25 years. It was great to see him. He’s a great person. I really want to thank Dave Letterman for being part of our honor tonight. He doesn’t know, but when I used to work the midnight shift, four years of midnight shift – I used to get there 11 to 7 and there’s a small red TV on the security card, a small red TV and Dave was my copilot. Every weekday, every night at work for four years. And also, he’d have so many great bands on his show that they – I saw so many bands that Letterman influences.
The first time on the Letterman show, and I’m just going to tell you my side of that quick story when I came into his studio and took the mic and sang, “Black.” He was doing it, “do-do-do do-do do.” He was doing that every night for about three months. And I was always watching the show and it was starting to make me fucking crazy. And then it started getting weird. I remember I smoked a little something. I’m sitting there, end of the night, kind of relaxing, and he kept asking, “Paul, when is this band going to be on the show?” “I don’t know. I haven–” “Did you call?” “I haven’t.” And he starts looking in the TV. And I’m stoned. And Dave Letterman who was my copilot with the security thing, he just looks into the camera like he’s looking into my bedroom … “Eddie? Eddie? Come here, Eddie.” It was fucked up. I thought the TV was talking to me. I lost my mind. Serious thought, you know, you might have to go to rehab. You’re tripping balls right now.
So last thing, we’ve been through a lot, this group, and if it weren’t for everybody out hearing about our music, if it weren’t for everybody out here who came to the shows … Those are the things that really kept us together when we felt the responsibility to the music was bigger than ourselves or our own personal needs. We knew we were better together than apart. It was you. I love these people so much. I feel like maybe we’re about halfway there to deserving something, immaculate of this statue, maybe halfway there. But this is very encouraging. And we’re very grateful. Thank you.