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The four members of R.E.M. met at the University of Georgia in Athens in 1979. Fellow Maconites Bill Berry and Mike Mills were a tight and ready-made rhythm section who had played together in bands before coming to UGA, while army-brat and Decatur native Michael Stipe attended the University's School of Visual Arts. California transplant Peter Buck, who attended Atlanta's Emory University, was working in a local record shop where he and Stipe first met and subsequently formed a close friendship over their eclectic record collections. After being introduced by mutual friends, the four formed a band and played their first show on April 5th, 1980, in an abandoned Episcopal Church they also called home. Although still nameless as a band that night, Berry, Buck, Mills and Stipe soon settled on R.E.M. after an evening of flipping through the dictionary. The band rapidly emerged as a local favorite on the Athens scene, which was soon to be made famous by acts like the B-52's, Pylon, and Love Tractor. Summer of 1981 witnessed the release of Radio Free Europe, the band's first single on the independent Hib-Tone label. Only 1,000 copies were pressed but lack of distribution couldn't stop the single from becoming a sensation and a sure-fire college-radio hit. Radio Free Europe garnered widespread critical acclaim and topped many year-end charts, including the Village Voice's annual Independent Singles poll.
In March 2007, the band, including original drummer Bill Berry, received the ultimate honor of induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. R.E.M. was inducted by longtime friend Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and shared the stage with fellow inductees Patti Smith, Van Halen, The Ronettes, and Grandmaster Flash. The band also recorded a version of John Lennon's 9 Dream with Berry which was released in March as the lead single from Instant Karma: The Campaign To Save Darfur, a benefit record comprised of covers of Lennon songs compiled in an attempt to raise funds for Amnesty International's campaign to end the ongoing violence in Darfur.
In October 2007. R.E.M. Live, a dual CD/DVD featuring songs from the band's performance at the Point Theatre show in Dublin on February 2005, was released. R.E.M.'s 14th studio record, titled Accelerate, is set for a Spring release. Accelerate will be in stores on March 31st outside of North America, where it will be released on April 1st.