Alyson P Karakouzian
EN 101 Sec 39
Profile Project
Dave Matthews
Dave Matthews is the lead guitarist and lead vocalist in the band, The Dave
Matthews Band. He uses the lyrics of his songs to voice his opinion about many societal
issues in the world and he also uses his music to raise money and awareness for societal
causes that he supports. The band has sold millions of records and the fan base spreads
around the world, giving him the opportunity to spread his message to a vast number of
people. Some of the key issues that Dave Matthews has focused on are peace, civil
rights, South Africa and environmental issues. His approach to raising awareness of
these issues is unique, as is the tone of his music.
Come out come out
No use in hiding
Come now come now
Can you not see?
There's no place here
What were you expecting
Not room for both
Just room for me
So you will lay your arms down
Yes I will call this home
Away away
You have been banished
Your land is gone
And given me
And here I will spread my wings
Yes I will call this home
What's this you say
You feel a right to remain
Then stay and I will bury you
What's that you say
Your father's spirit still lives in this place
I will silence you
Here's the hitch
Your horse is leaving
Don't miss your boat
It's leaving now
And as you go I will spread my wings
Yes I will call this home
I have no time to justify to you
Fool you're blind, move aside for me
All I can say to you my new neighbor
Is you must move on or I will bury you
Now as I rest my feet by this fire
Those hands once warmed here
I have retired them
I can breathe my own air
I can sleep more soundly
Upon these poor souls
I'll build heaven and call it home
'Cause you're all dead now
I live with my justice
I live with my greedy need
I live with no mercy
I live with my frenzied feeding
I live with my hatred
I live with my jealousy
I live with the notion
That I don't need anyone but me
Don't drink the water
Don't drink the water
There's blood in the water
Don't drink the water
The lyrics above are to the song “Don’t Drink The Water” and they exemplify the
atrocities that were committed against the Native Americans when the English invaded their
native lands and used violence and force to remove the Native Americans from their ancestral
lands. Dave Matthews uses a lyrical message to convey the depth of the tragedy faced by this
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group of people and how unjustly they were treated. The final lyric “Don’t drink the water” is an
actual reference to the blood in the rivers and streams near the killing fields where hundreds of
Native Americans were slaughtered and their blood supposedly ran into the water of the streams
and rivers, making it unsafe for the settlers to drink. Matthews raised awareness to the plight of
Native Americans with this song and he forced Americans to re-think our history and our place
on this land. He also plays into the theory that our history is poisoned with the blood of innocent
people and that we should not be so proud of our “land of freedom” once we realize the cost that
has been paid for it.
Apartheid and South African rights are very important to Dave Matthews, as he was born
in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1967 and lived there during several important times in his life.
He was raised in an integrated Quaker Church; "We were brought up, very aggressively, that
bigotry and racism are evil things, and they stem from fear,"(1). These beliefs instilled a very
open mind and caring personality in Matthews. Dave’s older sister, Anne, was murdered by her
husband in Johannesburg in 1994; he then immediately killed himself and orphaned their two
young children. Matthews and his younger sister consequently took full custody of their niece
and nephew and are raising them together. This was a very difficult time in Matthew’s life and
has shaped his public appearance schedules and his music. He later married and has three
children of his own, five year old twin girls and a one year old son. He works diligently to
prevent all of the children from being in the public light.
“Cry Freedom” was released on the 2005 album, Live Tracks Album 3 and is reported to
symbolize the war for freedom in South Africa. The message is that we are not all so different
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and that fear is what divides us and keeps us from accepting others if we view them as different
from ourselves.
How can I turn away
Brother/Sister go dancing
Through my head
Human as to human
The future is no place
To place your better days
Cry freedom cry
From a crowd 10,000 wide
Hope laid upon hope
That this crowd will not subside
Let this flag burn to dust
And a new a fair design be raised
While we wait head in hands
Hands in prayer
And fall into a dreamless sleep again
And we wave our hands
Hands and feet are all alike
But gold between divide us
Hands and feet are all alike
But fear between divide us
All slip away
There was a window and by it stood
A mirror in which
He could see himself
He thought of something
Something he had never had but hoped would come
along
Cry freedom, cry
From deep inside
Where we are all confined
While we wave our hands in fire
Wave our hands
Hands and feet are all alike
But gold between divide us
Hands and feet are all alike
But fear between divide us,
Slip away
In this room stood a little child
And in this room this little child
She would remain
Until someone might decide
To dance this little child
Across this hall
Into a cold, dark, space
Where she might never trace her way across this
crooked mile
Across this crooked page
Cry freedom, cry
From deep inside where
We are all confined
Till we wave our hands
How can I turn away
Brother/Sister go dancing
Through my head
Human as to human
The future is no place
To place your better days
Hands and feet are all alike
But gold between divide us
Hands and feet are all alike
But fear between divide us
Hands and feet are all alike
Hear what I say
Hear what I say
Oh, so be it
How can I turn away
Brother/Sister go dancing
Through my head
Human as to human
The future is no place
To place your better days
The deeper insinuation of money being the key dividing factor in our society is prevalent
in these lyrics. This song can be applied to South Africa and almost every other society
in our world today. Although Matthews is in a very high income bracket, he does not use
his money to spoil his family unnecessarily; he contributes significantly to numerous
causes and donates his time to charitable causes.
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The song “Where are you going?” from the Busted Stuff album was re-recorded
by The Dave Matthews Band for the album “Songs for Tibet” in support of the Dalai
Lama Tenzin Gyatso and his work towards peace in that region. The song had previously
been thought to signify emotions of a relationship between two people, but you can
interpret further and realize that this could embrace the tension between two societies and
their efforts to come to terms with each others beliefs and policies.
Where are you going?
Where do you go?
Are you lookin' for answers
To questions under the stars
And if along the way
You are growing weary
You can rest with me until a brighter day, you're okay
(Excerpt from Where are you going?)
These lyrics could also be interpreted in the Buddhist tradition, symbolizing their belief
in peaceful resolution and helping fellow people.
“One Sweet World” is one of the most easily interpreted songs, as it is clearly
representing the ways in which our society is damaging the earth and how few of us make
the effort to stop the destruction. This song has been used in multiple arenas to raise
awareness for environmental concerns, such as Hurricane Katrina and Farm Aid benefit
concerts, along with multiple uses by environmental awareness campaigns. We can
easily see that Dave Matthews believes in the protection of our planet and the importance
of the world in which we live. He has created a charitable organization that provides
grant funds to assist community groups and non-profits in the Charlottesville, VA area.
The funds assist are designed to aid programs for disadvantaged youth, environmental, art
and humanitarian causes. It is imperative that we listen to the message that this song
provides and put it in action in our own lives.
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Nine planets round the sun
Only one does the sun embrace
Upon this watered one
So much we take for granted
So let us sleep outside tonight
Lay down in our mother's arms
For here we can rest safely
If green should slip to grey
But our hearts still bloody be
And if mountains crumble away
And the river dry Would it stop the stepping feet
Take all that we can get
When it's done
Nobody left to bury here
Nobody left to dig the holes
And here we can rest safely
One sweet world
Around a star is spinning
One sweet world
And in her breath I'm swimming
And here we will rest in peace
It is further imperative that we realize our own personal interpretation of these lyrics, as
that is possibly what Dave Matthews intended. For each of us to stop and find our own
meaning in these areas of life. His lyrics usually provide ample room for interpretation
and this allows each listener to come up with their own personal meaning within the
lyrics.
I believe that Dave Matthews provides many societal causes with a widely reaching
platform in his music. Although not all of the true meanings of the songs are apparent at
first glance, the lyrics, rhythms and tonality of his songs all contribute to the depth of
expression with which he conveys his message.
He contributes his personal time,
appearances and funds to numerous social campaigns. I believe that Dave Matthews is a
successful musician that has taken his success and used it to strengthen the platform of
multiple social issues; therefore he is not only a musician, but an activist of social causes.
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Bibliography
Anjou, Erik. Dave Matthews Band. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2002.
Delancey, Morgan. The Dave Matthews Band: Step into the light : Toronto, ECW Press,
2001.
"Wikipedia ". 10/24/2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Matthews>.
"Dave Matthews". Biography Resource Center. 10/15/2008
<http://galenet.galegroup.com/ >. (1)
"Dave Matthews Band". Credo Reference. 10/15/2008
<http://www.credoreference.com/entry.do?id=4412069&hh=1&secid=.>.
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