Dave Matthews could be my brother. No. Seriously. He says some of the things I wish I could say when no one’s listening and I can say what’s on my mind. When I could be dancing Nancy. There was an amazing story he told once about people saying they were starving, and how he reminded them about real people in real places who were really starving. How many people have seen their actual ribs lately? It brought to mind all those commercials from the ’80s about giving to Ethiopia, and all those poor, sick kids who were in the film coverage to make you feel bad and want to give.
When I first heard Dave sing it was a song about a dog on a leash, a monkey on a string, and other such things of that ilk. It struck me as odd, but it also drew me in. I think the year was 1994, but I could be mistaken. My memory isn’t what it used to be. Anyway, the song was called “What Would You Say?” and it supposed that each listener was one of those things, like that dog on the leash, or that monkey on the string, and what you would probably say if you were in that situation. “Don’t cut my lifeline.” “Don’t bit the mailman.” Although, perhaps the dog would want to bite the mailman as some kind of masculine thing.
And Dave does this thing with his voice, some kind of vocal inflection where he kind of growls and yet maintains a type of flow, which is very difficult to do. Believe me. I’ve tried. But he makes it sound spontaneous, like he just thought it up on the spur of the moment, even though it’s on his record, and the record took ages to record and refine. That’s the glorious nature of sounds like that, captured for all time in a song, on a record. He also doesn’t care if the lyrics are hard to break through and understand. Because while the songs are released to the masses, they are also highly personal, and that resonates with me and shines through the song even if I don’t have any clue what he means by it.
“Grave digger, when you dig my grave, could you make it shallow so that I can feel the rain?” ~Dave Matthews
This also resonates with me, this idea that even the dead would want to appreciate some of the joys the living often take for granted, being able to feel the rain, to dance in the rain, to let it land on your tongue and taste its tart nature. This idea that the afterlife could be as simple as being in a shallow grave and wanting to escape, to regain your place among the living. A friend from high school passed away this past weekend and it made me pause. It made me examine my own life. If I died today what would I have to show for it? Would people set up a vigil on my Facebook page or would the moment pass as if I were never here?
That’s what makes Dave Matthews so special. He understands that the human experience is a varied one, and that each and every one of us is uniquely special, that we feel each other’s pain, and we create this world together regardless of good, bad, or indifferent. He gets that what keeps us together is what ultimately also divides us. And that’s okay. That’s enough.