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Music

The band that changed Eddie Vedder's life

@josephtaysom

Most people have one person in their life who made them fall in love with music. Usually an older friend or sibling, those introductory moments are huge for any music lover, let alone a music creator. Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder was no different with the singer owing his rebellious streak to his babysitter.

Vedder grew up in San Diego, and his household was a busy place during his early childhood, with his parents fostering several children. However, things were dramatically different when they divorced during his teenage years, and the frontman later admitted, “When I was around 15 or 16… I was all alone—except for music.” There was one night that he puts his lifelong love affair with music down to. When he was nine years old when his babysitter introduced him to the work of The Who, and his existence has been brighter ever since.

“I was around nine when a babysitter snuck Who’s Next onto the turntable,” he told Rolling Stone in 2016. “The parents were gone. The windows shook. The shelves were rattling. Rock and roll. That began an exploration into music that had soul, rebellion, aggression, affection. Destruction. And this was all Who music.”

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From there, Vedder developed an intense obsession with this album and wanted to consume everything he possibly could that The Who have ever released. Fortunately, his babysitter was more than willing to supply him with more records by the British band, and the visceral workings of Tommy moved him in a way that no album had done before.

He continued: “I think a babysitter brought over Tommy. And I’m already into The White Album, so I’m used to, like, two hours of music. I was moved by the theatricality of Tommy. It had an overture, a theme. I got really into listening to it as a linear piece. It went beyond the three-minute song. When you hear these things early on, it changes how you feel about music; you start accepting things that are different.”

Vedder added: “Imagine, as a kid, stumbling upon the locomotive that is Live at Leeds. ‘Hi, my name is Eddie. I’m ten years old, and I’m getting my fucking mind blown!”

He would later become friends with his heroes. Pete Townshend even reassured him when he needed it most after nine people passed away during a stampede during Pearl Jam’s set at Roskilde in similar circumstances to a tragedy that occurred at a concert by The Who decades before.

The singer remembered: “There I was in a fetal position, basically, and Pete said, ‘You can handle this.’ And I said, ‘I can’t.’ I was like, ‘I don’t know, Pete, I don’t think I can. I’m losing it.” And he said, ‘No, you can handle this.’

“I was doing a bit of ‘Woe is me, how did it happen to us?'”, continued Vedder, “And Pete said, ‘Because you can handle it. That’s probably why it happened because you can handle it.’ He empowered me to get my shit together: Don’t feel sorry, and don’t react. Respond.”

Not only are The Who the crescendoing catalyst that made Vedder first pick up a guitar, but Townshend is also the reason why he kept playing when he was on the brink of giving it all up.

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