return to main page

free the west memphis three
think global, act local:
a brief summary of social engagement, pj style

and Ed sings X with the Supersuckers

The members of Pearl Jam have always been very vocal about social causes that are important to them on a personal level. They have viewed their celebrity as giving them a responsibility to use their voice (and their money) for more than their own personal gain. From even the earliest days, they have contributed money, donated their talent, and lent their time to promoting various causes and organizations.

When people think of Pearl Jam and politics, most of them remember PJ's gallant but ultimately fruitless battle against the Ticketmaster monopoly. However, focusing on that effort as the only worthy representative of their social engagement does the band a disservice. They have donated their name, stage, platform, money and time to a large and varied list of political and social causes. Most of the causes the band have gotten involved in have to do with young people (various Seattle schools and other organizations that assist children or young adults) or the environment (Surfrider, Washington Wilderness Coalition, Honor The Earth). Every member has expressed their involvement in their own individual ways: Stone has gone off and built houses for Native Americans; Jeff has focused on causes local to Montana; Ed has a soft spot for Surfrider.

Up until 2000, the band's most vocal political involvement has been with the pro-choice movement, which began in earnest with the March 9, 1994 Rock for Choice benefit concert in Pensacola, Florida. (Ed appeared solo at a similar benefit in 1993.) This began with a personal, pro-choice statement written by Ed which appeared in Spin magazine in November of 1992.

2000 was the first year that PJ became loudly and specifically political, in support of Ralph Nader. Ed appeared and performed at Nader three rallies (Seattle, Chicago and New York City) and mentioned the candidate at almost every show on the second leg of the U.S. tour. (Lest anyone think this was only an "Ed thing," public records prove that at least 4/5 of the band individually donated money to the Nader campaign.)

Many fans had issues with Ed's use of the stage as a bully pulpit, but the fact is, the band felt strongly about an issue and felt it was their place to use their platform to promote it. And in addition to this, they worked to actively encourage their audience just to vote, vote for someone, anyone - just vote - by offering voter registration tables at the shows, and when it was too late for that, using the voter reg tables to provide visibility for voting and the elections. This effort was most visibly represented by the buttons, created by the band, that were handed out towards the end of the tour:

who are you voting for?

PJ's pursuit of philanthropic causes has been noteworthy because for the most part, PJ have never said "think this way because we do". Instead, they have chosen instead to put the information out there and let their audience make their own decisions. [5h's (now removed) Causes page does not simply mimic every PJ-related cause for that reason, rather choosing to list those causes that we personally identify with and support; in our very strong opinion, the band wants us to think, not be sheep that just follow their every move.] One of the most recent causes promoted by the band (and by Ed specifically) is the case of the West Memphis Three. He discussed this issue in the Lycos chat; he wore t-shirts on stage (great shot and nod during "Do The Evolution" on the DVD!) and discussed it in interviews; and, along with local Seattle band the Supersuckers, he contributed a song to the (great!!) benefit album called A Benefit For Truth and Justice: Free The West Memphis Three.

The song, called "Poor Girl," is a cover of a song by LA punk legends X (who opened for PJ at some shows in 1998). Many of you may have heard the song played over the PA before the PJ shows this summer, or have heard it on the radio. (It's a great great album musically, so if all you have is the mp3, you are missing out!)

In addition to "Poor Girl," Ed and the Supersuckers recorded another X song, "Devil Doll". Both of these tracks were slated for a an X tribute album, which has not been able to be completed due to legal wrangling. However, we managed to get a copy of a rough mix of this track and are making this available to you now.

We LOVE this version of the song. We love the production. We wish they had left the vocals on "Poor Girl" as raw and unadulterated as they are on here. Ed sounds great, like he's having a blast, and the Supersuckers just kick ass. And, it's a loving, faithful, fitting tribute to a band who were truly pioneers, and who still kick plenty of ass themselves.

At this point, we're sure you're asking: what does an X cover Ed did as a side project have to do with anything? Well, we hate to put up random mp3s without some kind of context, but we knew people really wanted to hear this song. So we thought we'd try to tie the two things together. In a year in which PJ aren't active, and in which we all seem to have more time on our hands, we wanted to try to use our platform as responsibly as PJ uses theirs: we would like to encourage you to get educated about political or social causes, no matter what they are, and maybe get involved on some level yourself.

Copyright © 2004 Five Horizons