"Music is at its best when it has a purpose."
These are the words of Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, who, alongside being one of the most influential figures of the rock and roll grunge movement, is also a well-noted philanthropist and dedicated activist.
Vedder is now bringing his critically acclaimed classic rock tunes and activism to the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100, presented and hosted by the Motsepe Foundation, in Johannesburg on Dec. 2, alongside artists such as Beyoncé, JAY-Z, Cassper Nyovest, Ed Sheeran, Kacey Musgraves, Pharrell Williams, Chris Martin, Sho Madjozi, and Usher.
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The Seattle-raised star is no stranger to Global Citizen’s mission to end extreme poverty. In 2015, Vedder and Pearl Jam headlined the Global Citizen Festival in Central Park and joined 60,000 people in calling for the success of the Sustainable Development Goals. Vedder was then joined on stage by Beyoncé for a cover of Bob Marley’s "Redemption Song," while Nelson Mandela's “Make Poverty History” speech was projected on screens behind them.
"This is really an incredible experience," Vedder told Global Citizens during his 2015 performance. "Never before have we played for an audience full of activists. We want to thank you all for making this wave of hope that can ride and grow and smash the shores of cynicism and apathy. In the near future, we can make global poverty a thing of the past."
Pearl Jam and Vedder have a long history of intertwining activism into their concerts. In 2015, Vedder interrupted a show in Brazil to pledge $100,000 to those affected by a recent toxic mudslide. The mining disaster claimed the lives of 17 people after two dams co-owned by BHP Billiton and Vale burst.
Similarly, just days later, the band took to the stage in Colombia wearing orange t-shirts that had "for a Colombia free of violence against women" written across them. Their t-shirt choice, Vedder stated, was part of their broader message around empowerment of women and girls.
"Tonight, I am thinking a lot about women in the audience and this country," Vedder told the crowd. "All we can do together is not only to give women equality and safety but to give them the tools and the space to be agents of change. Let’s unite for a life free of violence against women."
In August, the band returned to play a home show in Seattle for the first time in five years. The two sold-out shows raised $11 million dollars, 90% of which was donated to local organizations.
The group is so dedicated to helping those in need that they founded the public nonprofit Vitalogy Foundation, supporting efforts "in the fields of community health, the environment, arts and education, and social change." In 2017, Vedder and his bandmates announced they would commit $75,000 toward protecting some 20 million people from the ongoing famine in Africa. Mercy Corps, Oxfam, and the International Committee of the Red Cross all received an equal share of the donation thanks to funds from Pearl Jam merchandise and ticket sales.
Vedder and Pearl Jam, however, don’t just use their money to make a difference. Vedder publicly joined the Colin Kaepernick #TakeAKnee Movement as a protest against systematic oppression, and likewise canceled a 2016 North Carolina show over a controversial state law that restricted the civil rights of the transgender community.
And now, Vedder will use his voice again to call for a better world free from racism, injustice, and poverty on the Global Citizen stage during his Mandela 100 performance.
"It is such an honour to be given the chance to head to South Africa to celebrate Nelson Mandela's incomparable legacy," Vedder stated. "He showed an entire generation what it means to be a leader and make a difference for the world's poor. I'm so grateful that this event will serve as a reminder of his great work and inspire us all to carry on in his name."
The Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 is presented and hosted by The Motsepe Foundation, with major partners House of Mandela, Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, Nedbank, Vodacom, Coca Cola Africa, Big Concerts, BMGF Goalkeepers, Eldridge Industries, and associate partners HP and Microsoft.