Why is the Number “23″ used so often?

by Kathy Davis on February 23, 2007

The movie The Number 23, starring Jim Carrey and Virginia Madsen, opens in theaters in the U.S. on February 23. We wouldn’t arbitrarily plug a movie, but this movie’s title does lead to an interesting conversation on Pearl Jam numerology.

A recurring theme for Eddie Vedder is the number 23. In the movie “The Number 23″, the main character becomes obsessed with the number. Maybe “obsessed” is too strong a word, but Eddie definitely has a “fondness” for the number 23 for many reasons. Let’s inspect.

They say it’s your birthday!

Ed was born on December 23, 1964. Ed has never played a concert with Pearl Jam on his birthday. Notable events on December 23:

  • 1888, Vincent Van Gogh cuts off left ear
  • 1943, Harry Shearer born (Spinal Tap, voice of Simpsons characters)
  • 1949, Adrian Belew of King Crimson born
  • 1954, The first human kidney transplant performed
  • 1958, Singer-songwriter Victoria Williams (writer of popular PJ cover song Crazy Mary) born
  • Fictitious Seinfeld holiday “Festivus” celebrated

Pick a number

Ed’s recent black guitar picks feature the number 23 printed on them

Number 23 is Number 1

Ed’s “hometown” basketball hero is probably the greatest basketball player of all time, the Chicago Bulls’ Michael Jordan, who wore jersey number 23. Ed can be seen wearing a Bulls’ 23 Jordan jersey in the video for “Alive”

Ed also pays homage to Jordan en español in “Black, Red, Yellow” with the line “Black magic viente y tres” meaning “Black magic #23“. Read article.

‘Got tickets for the 23rd

Pearl Jam have played on the 23rd of the month well over 23 times

Separated at birth

Ed and Adam Sandler converse about numbers at the April 16, 1994 Saturday Night Live Rehearsal

Ed: “What date where you born?”

Adam: “9-9-66. But my family’s always been … 23, my Dad gambles with 23, he, uh … Everything’s 2 or 3. Like he buys 2 things or 3 things at a store. He’s sick with it. And I’m like it too, now I am… I knock 2 or 3 times. Eddie, where have you seen 23 lately?”

Ed: (pointing off to the right) There’s a thing right back over there it says “23” (unintelligible). Orange juice on the plane today – expiration date May 23rd.”

Know Code

The numbers 2 & 3 are printed in red around the center circle of the No Code CD artwork. All the other numbers are in black


“Untitled” – the pre-”MFC” improv staple of the 2000 tour, often featured a reference to the number: “I could be there (or “I could pick you up”) in 23 minutes or so”.

Location, location, location

The Tropic of Capricorn (Ed’s astrological sign) is 23.5 degrees latitude north of the equator. The Tropic of Cancer (Stone’s astrological sign) is 23.5 degrees latitude south of the equator.

Kathy Davis ( Twitter: @CrookedArm23 )
A Bay-Area based entrepreneur, co-editor Kathy conceives and writes her share of TFT’s articles and sections. She was co-editor/co-founder of one of the first Pearl Jam fanzines "Footsteps" (1992-1997). Kathy’s first Pearl Jam show was at the Bridge School Benefit on November 1, 1992.

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