Eddie Vedder has covered Bob Dylan song ‘Masters of War’ with his band Pearl Jam on a plethora of different occasions over the years but, on this special stripped back performance, Vedder and a six-string in a studio performing the track is nothing short of sublime.
The footage is taken from the 2009 documentary film The People Speak which used musical performances on the topic of social justice and looks at the history of social change in America. The soundtrack was magnificent and was released on Verve Records which was topped off with Vedder’s masterful covers of the early Dylan numbers ‘Masters of War‘ and ‘Only a Pawn In Their Game’.
The 1963 number featured on the imperial The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and despite Dylan only being 22-years-old when the song was released he dealt with themes that you wouldn’t tend to associate with someone so young. In 2001, Bob told USA Today that it “is not an antiwar song. It’s speaking against what Eisenhower was calling a military-industrial complex as he was making his exit from the presidency. That spirit was in the air, and I picked it up.”
It’s a criticism of the American regime and why Dylan felt like it was a pointless act which rather than creating any defence — it just worsened things. “I’ve never really written anything like that before. I don’t sing songs which hope people will die, but I couldn’t help it with this one. The song is a sort of striking out, a reaction to the last straw, a feeling of what can you do?” Dylan wrote in the liner notes for The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.
The anti-war message is one that Vedder truly belives in which is reflected in his cover which is delivered straight from the heart. “I swear to fucking God, there are people out there who are looking for a reason to kill! They’re looking for a reason to go across borders and take over land that doesn’t belong to them. They should get the fuck out, and mind their own fucking business,” Vedder said on-stage in 2014 which backs up the feeling that inspired Dylan to write ‘Masters of War’ all those decades earlier.
Vedder first covered the track with his Pearl Jam bandmate Mike McCready at Bobfest, which was an event held in 1992 to celebrate 30 years of Bob Dylan as a recording artist, saw the great and the good of the musical world join forces at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Dylan himself even played at the event as did the likes of Neil Young, George Harrison, Johnny Cash, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Eric Clapton, and Lou Reed but it was the young upstart Vedder who stole the show.
‘Masters of War’ is a perfect fit for Vedder, check out the stunning cover below.