The List of the Mohicans: Another Eddie Vedder “Innovation”

-- Kira,

When MTV’s introduced its Buzz Bin in the early nineties, it was used to distinguish innovative artists from the artists that were producing the run-of-the-mill rap or rock.  So when Pearl Jam’s first video “Alive” premiered as a buzz clip, they were already celebrated as innovators before anyone but MTV had heard them.

They deserved the brand.  They, with the little help MTV and Epic Records (Sony Music) could offer, introduced grunge to our simple little R.E.M., Def Leppard, and M.C. Hammer world.  Sure, a few other artists were dabbling in this undercover rock star genre – Green River, The Melvins, Mudhoney, Alice in Chains…not to mention Nirvana and Soundgarden.  But Pearl Jam cleared the path to the mainstream by appearing first on Buzz Bin.

In the wake of Kurt Cobain’s death, and the incorporation of grunge into the mainstream that left it powerless and eventually defunct (hats off to you, Bush), chart-topping music became once again sterile and safe.   (On a recent MTV special, one artist suggested it would take an artist 100 times more powerful than Cobain to reinvigorate the music industry.)

In late February, Pearl Jam took a stand for all recording artists when they helped form the Recording Artist’s Rights Coalition, which seeks to level the playing field for artists and labels by reforming contractual relations, how royalties are payed out, and many other devices through which labels exploit musicians.

At a benefit for the coalition, Eddie Vedder continued to pioneer new ground, when he took the stage sporting a mohawk, explicitly shirking fashion conventions for rock star and civilian alike.  Moreover, he effectively spat in the face of the fans and the industry that place more emphasis on musicians’ images than on their music.

By sporting a Mohawk, Vedder placed himself in long tradition of pioneering revolutionaries who worked to change the world for the better.

Paratroopers preparing for Normandy D-Day jump

These airborne soldiers in WWII, for example, undermine the military’s code of uniformity by asserting their individuality through the mohawk.  See how they help each other with their make-up.

Mr. T sported a mohawk in the A-Team, in which he played a Vietnam Vet who took on corrupt authorities and coercive State and Corporate regimes.

In Taxi Driver, Robert DeNiro played a veteran who tried to assassinate idiot politicians, and murdered patriarchal figures who exploited little girls.

The Exploited were perhaps the first musicians to sport Mohawks.  The mohawk is solidified as a symbol of revolutionary politics.  As does big poofy hair and mullets.


When Scott Wieland of Stone Temple Pilots emerged clean and sober and could once again serve as STP’s frontman, he sported a mohawk that said “I may be on a major label, making lots of money and selling CDs and concert tickets for outrageous prices,  but I’m still an antidisestablishmentarian,” effectively paving the way for others who want to have their cake and eat it too: “Look, I may have sold out and may be making music that sounds like everyone else, but I’m still the same disenfranchised anticorporate disestablishmentarian poor crusty punk kid I was.”

And so Eddie Vedder leaps onstage, taking his place as pioneering radical with an original haircut, and in some leap of logic I can’t begin to fathom, asserts his individuality by looking like everyone else. 

Thanks Eddie for all you’ve done to prove conformity is a viable means of resistance.




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