Mini-Features: Dave Matthews Band

27th October 2020:

I would like to tag this mini-feature as local music but although Dave Matthews was born in Johannesburg he frequently moved back and forth between the States, England and South Africa throughout his childhood. When his father, a physicist for IBM, passed away in 1977 his family moved back to Johannesburg.

Dave Matthews Band by Erik Kabik : Photo Credit: Erik Kabik Photography/ erikkabik.com

On matriculating in 1985 Dave Matthews was faced with compulsory conscription into the defense force. As a Quaker and therefore a pacifist, he opted to leave South Africa and, after a brief spell in New York, moved to Charlottesville, his previous American home town. Matthews had been playing the guitar since he was 9-years-old, but only started performing publicly at this time.

In 1991 he hatched the idea to form a band and already had two members in mind, drummer Carter Beauford and saxophonist LeRoi Moore. Matthews loved how the guys played and threw his songs open to their interpretation and improvisation. They soon realised they needed more musicians to get the sound they needed, and this saw the addition of Stefan Lessard, Peter Grieser and Boyd Tinsley.

Over the next three years they honed their sound and in 1994 their debut album ‘Under the Table and Dreaming’. The album was dedicated to Dave Matthews’s sister Annie who had been tragically murdered in South Africa earlier that year. I remember that my jaw dropped when I first heard the album in 1995 and it became staple daily listening. Not many debut albums ensure worldwide fame for a new band.  

We have a lot of ground to cover so I am starting today’s playlist with the mega-hit from their second album ‘Crash’ (1996). Here’s ‘So Much to Say’. To say I love this song is a gross understatement!

Maybe as an acknowledgement of his South African heritage, the band considered calling itself Dumwelah, the Tswana word for Hello. The idea wasn’t very popular and when they were phoned by a venue who had booked them to verify the spelling, LeRoi Moore told them just to write down Dave Matthews. The venue added the word Band to the end and that was it! The Dave Matthews Band name stuck. It wasn’t a conscious decision at all.

The late LeRoi Moore

The success of the first two albums, and the single ‘So Much to Say’ winning them their first Grammy award, made fans hungry for more. In 1998 the ’Before These Crowded Streets’ album saw a departure from the occasional expected upbeat song. With the addition of banjo, stick player, the Kronos Quartet, and Alanis Morrissette adding vocals, the album is a richly textured tapestry of musical layers. ‘Before These Crowded Streets’ was an instant commercial success with over 900,000 albums sold worldwide in the first week. As of 2018, there have been over 21,000,000 copies sold worldwide..

I’m jumping forward to the sixth studio album ‘Stand Up’ that was released in 2005. It was their fourth consecutive number one album on the Billboard 200 chart. Sadly, the album was the last with LeRoi Moore who passed away shortly afterwards. Here’s the song ‘Everybody Wake Up’ with lyrics that are as pertinent today as they were then.

The Dave Matthews Band’s live performances are legendary and they are known for jamming their well-known songs on stage. Performing comes naturally to Dave Matthews who had a love for amdram productions during his younger days and has gone on to win awards in his film career.

To date the band has sold in excess of 20 million concert tickets and a combined total of 40 million albums. I’ve chosen to close today with a song from the last release, 2018’s ‘Come Tomorrow’. As with so many of their albums, it debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, making the Dave Matthews Band the first band ever to have had seven consecutive studio albums debut in top spot.

Dave Matthews doing what he does best

DMB’s philanthropic philosophy sees them donate a potion of each concert ticket to their hometown of Charlottesville’s various charities and community enrichment programs, many of them instituted by the band. These include music and education centres, recreational facilities and a farmer’s co-op for the struggling small-farmer community.

This principle of giving back has benefitted every area of their community. Here is the link to the documentary that follows the formation of the band and the impact they have had on their home town. It makes for 45 min of fascinating watching.

Next year will see the 30th anniversary of Dave Matthews’s decision to start a band. Nine top-notch studio albums later, the Dave Matthews Band are still as relevant today as they were three decades ago. The DMB Facebook page reports that their tours have been postponed for the moment, but I’m sure that there is another album full of brilliance in the pipeline.

The song ‘The Idea of You’ is a beautiful look at a grown mans recollection of his first love. Dave Matthews captures a poignant picture in his lyrics:

 “All grown-up and moved away,

Dreams of circuses have been replaced,

I wonder what you’re doing today,

Or if you remember way back then,

You could smile and make a day,

You were kind to a little kid,

Maybe it sure was okay,

But all I did was pull your hair”

Although the song is on the ‘Come Tomorrow’ album, I have chosen a live version filmed a few years before on the 2014 Summer Warm-Up Tour. Thanks for joining me today for some Dave Matthews magic. 😎


The Loving the Music mini-features are written and compiled by me to support Loving the Music Facebook page and group. Join the community for regular themed three-part posts that do do more than just share a song.

The Author owns no copyright on the images or videos in this article. All images and links sourced from YouTube and Google and within the public domain.

Words © Andrew Knapp 2020

Published by Loving the Music

I am a music-lover who has been fortunate enough to live through six-decades of ever-changing musical styles and genres. Loving the Music is my eclectic collection of regular music-related mini-features and whatever else tickles my musical fancy. You can also find me on the Loving the Music Facebook group and page. Happy listening - Andrew Knapp

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