Pearl Jam is an American rock band formed in 1990 in Seattle, Washington. Since its inception, the band's line-up has included Eddie Vedder (lead vocals), Mike McCready (lead guitar), Stone Gossard (rhythm guitar), and Jeff Ament (bass). Since 1998, the band has also included drummer Matt Cameron (also of Soundgarden). Boom Gaspar (piano) has also been a session/touring member with the band since 2002.
Formed after the demise of Gossard and Ament's previous band, Mother Love Bone, Pearl Jam broke into the mainstream with its debut album, Ten, in 1991. One of the key bands in the grunge movement of the early 1990s, its members often shunned popular music industry practices such as making music videos or giving interviews. The band also sued Ticketmaster claiming it had monopolized the concert-ticket market. In 2006, Rolling Stone described the band as having "spent much of the past decade deliberately tearing apart their own fame."
The band had sold nearly 32 million records in the United States by 2012, and until 2018, they had sold more than 85 million records worldwide. Pearl Jam outsold many of its contemporary alternative rock bands from the early 1990s, and is considered one of the most influential bands of the decade. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic referred to Pearl Jam as "the most popular American rock & roll band of the '90s". Pearl Jam was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 7, 2017, in its first year of eligibility.
Compared with the other grunge bands of the early 1990s, Pearl Jam's style is noticeably less heavy and harkens back to the classic rock music of the 1970s. Pearl Jam has cited many punk rock and classic rock bands as influences, including The Who, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Kiss and the Ramones. Pearl Jam's success has been attributed to its sound, which fuses "the riff-heavy stadium rock of the '70s with the grit and anger of '80s post-punk, without ever neglecting hooks and choruses." Gossard's rhythm guitar style is known for its sense of beat and groove, while McCready's lead guitar style, influenced by artists such as Jimi Hendrix, has been described as "feel-oriented" and "rootsy."
Pearl Jam has broadened its musical range with subsequent releases. As he had more influence on the band's sound, Vedder sought to make the band's musical output less catchy. He said, "I felt that with more popularity, we were going to be crushed, our heads were going to pop like grapes." By 1994's Vitalogy, the band began to incorporate more punk influences into its music. The band's 1996 album, No Code, was a deliberate break from the musical style of Ten. The songs on the album featured elements of garage rock, worldbeat, and experimentalism. After Yield in 1998, which was somewhat of a return to the straightforward rock approach of the band's early work, they dabbled with experimental art rock on the Binaural album of 2000, and with folk rock elements on the 2002 Riot Act album. The band's 2006 album, Pearl Jam, was cited as a return to their early sound. Their 2009 album, Backspacer, contains elements of pop and new wave.
Critic Jim DeRogatis describes Vedder's vocals as a "Jim Morrison-like vocal growl." Greg Prato of AllMusic said, "With his hard-hitting and often confessional lyrical style and Jim Morrison-esque baritone, Vedder also became one of the most copied lead singers in all of rock." Vedder's lyrical topics range from personal ("Alive", "Better Man") to social and political concerns ("Even Flow", "World Wide Suicide"). His lyrics have often invoked the use of storytelling and have included themes of freedom, individualism, and sympathy for troubled individuals. When the band started, Gossard and McCready were clearly designated as rhythm and lead guitarists, respectively. The dynamic began to change when Vedder started to play more rhythm guitar during the Vitalogy era. McCready said in 2006, "Even though there are three guitars, I think there's maybe more room now. Stone will pull back and play a two-note line and Ed will do a power chord thing, and I fit into all that".
While Nirvana had brought grunge to the mainstream in the early 1990s with Nevermind, Pearl Jam's debut Ten outsold it in the United States, and the band became "the most popular American rock & roll band of the '90s" according to AllMusic. Pearl Jam has been described as "modern rock radio's most influential stylists – the workmanlike midtempo chug of songs like "Alive" and "Even Flow" just melodic enough to get moshers singing along." The band inspired and influenced a number of bands, ranging from Silverchair to Puddle of Mudd and The Strokes. The band has also been credited for inspiring the indie rock scene of 90s-era urban Pakistan, that has since evolved into a rich rock music culture in the country.
Pearl Jam has been praised for its rejection of rock star excess and its insistence on backing causes it believes in. Music critic Jim DeRogatis said in the aftermath of the band's battle with Ticketmaster that it "proved that a rock band which isn't comprised of greed heads can play stadiums and not milk the audience for every last dime… it indicated that idealism in rock 'n' roll is not the sole province of those '60s bands enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame." Eric Weisbard of Spin said in 2001, "The group that was once accused of being synthetic grunge now seem as organic and principled a rock band as exists." In a 2005 USA Today reader's poll, Pearl Jam was voted the greatest American rock band of all time. In April 2006, Pearl Jam was awarded the prize for "Best Live Act" in Esquire's Esky Music Awards. The blurb called Pearl Jam "the rare superstars who still play as though each show could be their last." Pearl Jam's fanbase following has been compared to that of the Grateful Dead's, with Rolling Stone magazine stating that Pearl Jam "toured incessantly and became one of rock's great arena acts, attracting a fanatical, Grateful Dead-like cult following with marathon, true-believer shows in the vanishing spirit of Bruce Springsteen, the Who and U2."
When asked about Pearl Jam's legacy in a 2000 interview, Vedder said, "I think at some point along the way we began feeling we wanted to give people something to believe in because we all had bands that gave that to us when we needed something to believe in. That was the big challenge for us after the first record and the response to it. The goal immediately became how do we continue to be musicians and grow and survive in view of all this… The answers weren't always easy, but I think we found a way."
Drummers Dave Krusen, Matt Chamberlain, Dave Abbruzzese, and Jack Irons are former members of the band.