Michael Jackson Influenced Pearl Jam Too

by Jessica Letkemann on June 26, 2009

Believe it or not, Michael Jackson, who the world is mourning after his sudden death yesterday, played a formative roll in both Eddie Vedder and Jeff Ament’s music life.

“At an early age, I realized music was a very powerful thing,” Jeff told Bass Player in 1994. “I’d hear Michael Jackson singing [1972's] “Ben” and it would make me cry and I’d have to go hide.”

While nine-year-old Jeff was reacting to MJ’s first solo No. 1 in Montana, seven-year-old Eddie over near Chicago counted the Jackson Five as one of his favorite groups. Eddie told Circus in 1992 that singing along to 12-year-old Michael Jackson was some of the first singing he ever attempted. “We had moved north of Chicago,” Eddie said. “And my parents became the new foster parents for seven kids in this group home. they were mostly African-American kids and some Irish kids. Most of these kids were around 11, and they were all full on Motown. That’s when I got into Smokey Robinson, James Brown, Otis Redding and the Jackson Five. I started singing to Michael Jackson records.” In the same article, Eddie notes that his first album was Michael Jackson’s 1972 album “Got To Be There.”

As all PJ fans know, these two unlikely fans paid homage to Michael Jackson twenty years later in the 1993 Pearl Jam song, “Rats.” The song is dominated by Jeff’s bass-heavy groove and it swings into a massive key shift at the end so that Eddie can repeatedly sing the chorus of “Ben.”

Jessica Letkemann ( Twitter: @Letkemann )
TFT co-editor Jessica Letkemann is a New York based digital music journalist & editor. She's currently VP & Editor-In-Chief of Digital at Fuse Media (Fuse.tv) and was previously managing editor of Billboard.com. She has also been on staff at Spin and Premiere magazines. Her first Pearl Jam show was at Lollapalooza on August 2, 1992.

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