"There are certain names I deeply wish were on the guest list tonight, but we lost them too early": Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder remembers his lost musical peers and covers Nine Inch Nails' Hurt in Seattle, Johnny Cash-style

 Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam performs at Climate Pledge Arena on May 30, 2024 in Seattle, Washington
(Image credit: Jim Bennett/Getty Images)

"There's no other guest list bigger than the one we have when we're in Seattle… to be honest I wish it were longer," Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder told the crowd at the band's second night at the city's Climate Pledge Arena on 30 May. But it's the names who will always be missing that were playing on his mind during the show – the peers no longer with us.

"There are certain names I deeply wish were on the guest list tonight, but we lost them too early to ways we could have never imagined," he continued. "And damn it if I can't stop thinking about them. But that's a good thing too, right?"

Those Pacific North West absentees paying on Eddie Vedder's mind as he picked out the intro to Nine Inch Nails' Hurt must surely include Chris Cornell, Layne Staley, Kurt Cobain and Brad's Shawn Smith. 

Hurt originally featured on Nine Inch Nails' 1994 opus The Downward Spiral, but was immortalised in the mainstream by Johnny Cash when he gave it an acoustic treatment for 2002 album American IV: The Man Comes Around.

"I listened to it and it was very strange," reflected Nine Inch Nails songwriter Trent Reznor on hearing Cash's take on his track. "It was this other person inhabiting my most personal song.

"I'd known where I was when I wrote it. I know what I was thinking about. I know how I felt. Hearing it was like someone kissing your girlfriend. It felt invasive."

It was later seeing Cash in the video for the song that was the missing piece of the puzzle for Reznor. "It really, really made sense and I thought what a powerful piece of art.

"Having Johnny Cash, one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time, want to cover your song, that's something that matters to me. It's not so much what other people think but the fact that this guy felt that it was worthy of interpreting." 

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.