Every decade has it’s own cultural hallmarks for which it’s known and most recognized. The 60s were the decade of counter culture. The age of of hippies and beatniks, folk singers and lyrical poets. Free love and the birth of the sexual revolution were interspersed with an ironic mixture of radical militantism protesting the war in Vietnam.
The dawn of the 70s bore the fruits from the counter culture decade previous. It was the age of disco, and of the car culture, the ERA, and Star Wars. Postwar economy was good, and soldiers returning home bought inexpensive homes and began making lots of babies.
The 80s was a decade of indulgence. One need only watch an episode of Miami Vice to see the zeal for excess and consumerism that prevailed. It was an eclectic decade musically, offering us hair metal, punk, rap, and popular rock. It was the age of MTV and VH1. Cheap cocaine, bad hairstyles and HIV.
Toward the end of the 80s, the cultural scene began to once again take on activism, and movements like LiveAid came into vogue. To me it always seemed a bit condescending to see a room of 40 multimillionaires singing to raise money to help end hunger.
This wave of activism followed us into the 90s, which largely, was culturally vacuous. The 90’s ushered in the age of remixes and Milli Vanilli. The downward spiral of the music industry had begun in earnest. The 90s also gave birth to the music style we call Grunge. Eminating mainly from the Seattle area, grunge was the voice of the voiceless.
The band came under considerable fire for release of the hit song Jeremy, which told the tale of an angry boy who commits suicide at school. The song was inspired by the factual suicide of Jeremy Delle in 1991. It released a decade before Columbine but in 1996, a 14 year old named Barry Loukaitis killed two classmates and a teacher, claiming that Pearl Jam’s Ten had been his inspiration.
What wasn’t ground breaking about Pearl Jam was their attempts at activism. They used their platform to promote abortion, the Green Party initiatives, and to protest President George Bush and Gulf War. They also pushed the rock the vote campaign and in absense of a viable Green Party candidate, supported the candidacy of John Kerry.
While musicians have typically been held as avante garde, heralds of culture and counter culture, the rise of the virtue signalling celebrity has unfortunately become so commonplace as to be mainstream. Musicians, actors, comics and writers have almost unanimously hopped on the band wagon spewing the same shit. They want to see a socialist revolution, with open borders and all the equality and prosperity that Karl Marx promised. Very few celebrities have shown the courage and foresight to retain their ability to think critically.
So when the story broke about Pearl Jam’s new concert poster and it’s anti-Trump, anti- America theme, my only real surprise came from learning that Pearl Jam was still a thing.