Features

Most Influential, Equity: Pearl Jam

The band’s charitable work is just as impressive as its musical output

By Chris S. Nishiwaki February 10, 2023

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - MAY 07: Pearl Jam performs onstage at The Forum on May 07, 2022 in Inglewood, California.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2023 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Pearl Jam is among Seattle’s 25 most influential changemakers reshaping our region. #mostinfluential  

The Vitalogy Foundation, Pearl Jam’s charitable arm, has an organic approach to giving, with all band members supporting their chosen projects as well as collectively deciding which organizations and causes to fund. 

So, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a woman’s right to an abortion this summer, the Seattle band quickly sprang into action.  

The seminal grunge group contributed the single “Porch” to the album “Good Music to Ensure Safe Abortion Access to All,” a compilation by music advocacy organizations Good Music and Noise for Now. The effort raised more than $230,000 for two organizations: Brigid Alliance, which helps pay for food, travel and lodging for those who need an abortion; and the Abortion Care Network to support clinics. 

The foundation focuses on three main areas: the environment, homelessness and indigenous causes.

During its North American tour last year, Pearl Jam paid $200 per ton for carbon dioxide mitigation to reduce the band’s carbon footprint. It recently advocated the protection of a vast forested territory by the Kayapo indigenous people of Brazil. It was involved last year in gun-violence awareness campaigns.

The band’s pro-choice advocacy, though, goes back to its beginnings. During Pearl Jam’s iconic MTV Unplugged set in 1992, Eddie Vedder wrote “Pro Choice” on his arm before performing “Porch.” That same year, Pearl Jam performed “Porch” on “Saturday Night Live,” with Vedder famously wearing a T-shirt adorned with the image of coat hanger, symbolizing unsafe back-alley abortions.   

“Without getting into specifics, my thinking about abortion germinated from personal experience,” Vedder said in an interview with “The New York Times Magazine.” “The issue has only grown in importance for me. The real issue is not allowing women to have control of their own bodies and their own futures. If it was a men’s issue, it wouldn’t be an issue. 

“I’ve always felt that as males maybe we shouldn’t be part of the discussion. I would gladly surrender my place in it if every other man did, too. It’s frustrating because we’re rehashing issues that seemingly had been dealt with fairly responsibly. The fact that these rights are still in jeopardy, it feels like we’re trying to cure polio again.” 

Pearl Jam continues to allocate $5 for each ticket sold during its concerts to the Vitalogy Foundation, which has a budget of about $1.5 million.

#mostinfluential

Follow Us

Most Influential, Hospitality: J. Kenji López-Alt

Most Influential, Hospitality: J. Kenji López-Alt

Chef, author

López-Alt is a two-time James Beard Award-winner, with all three of his books making it onto The New York Times bestseller list. His latest book, The Wok, currently in bookstores, won him his second James Beard Award this year. Photo by J. Kenji López-Alt

Most Influential, Arts: Christina Scheppelmann

Most Influential, Arts: Christina Scheppelmann

General director, Seattle Opera

On November 22, 1981, a teenage Christina Scheppelmann saw Don Carlo in Hamburg, Germany. The five-act opera, which Scheppelmann called an “incredibly monumental, relevant piece of music,” displayed the life and conflicts of a fictional 16th-century European prince. From then on, she was in love. “(Opera) is incredibly emotional. It’s exciting,” she says. “If you…

Most Influential, Business: Marques Warren

Most Influential, Business: Marques Warren

Entrepreneur

The solution-minded Warren founded Cougar Mountain Financial, a lender specializing in loans to women and minority-owned businesses at airports. So far, he has financed restaurants at a food court at Los Angeles International Airport, and several retailers at San Francisco International Airport... Photo by Danielle Barnum

Most Influential, Education: Sheila Edwards Lange

Most Influential, Education: Sheila Edwards Lange

Educator

When Dr. Sheila Edwards Lange was appointed chancellor of the University of Washington Tacoma in the fall of 2021, she became the highest-ranking Black administrator in the UW system. Photo by Ryan Moriarty/UW Tacoma