Dave Matthews: A true musician

Dave Matthews represents the gatekeeper for my love affair with music. I didn’t grow up with the Stones, Beatles or Creedence Clearwater Revival. I grew up with the Dave Matthews Band, who formed in 1991 and have been selling out arenas and stadiums ever since. Today, Matthews turns a weary and wise 49 years old. He’ll be heading out on tour again this year in support of another album that he has poured a fair share of his soul into this past year.

That’s what Matthews does. He’s a true musician. He writes, sings, plays and allows his tunes to sell themselves. No extra glaze, glitter or glitz are required. Matthews looks like a college student who just rolled out of bed and dressed himself blind when he gets to the stage. It’s all about the music. He is a man with a guitar telling stories supported by an unbelievable crew of musicians.

It was back in 1998 that my dad slipped in an album entitled “Crash” that didn’t get taken out of the CD player for the entire night. We listened to it over and over again, revisiting and devouring the versatile set of tracks. There was the legendary “Crash into Me” but also “Tripping Billies” and “Proudest Monkey” to balance out the sound and rhythm of the band’s third mainstream release. I didn’t think about where they’d been for the first 16 years of my life. I only wanted more. Matthews was the maestro behind it all. He played rhythm guitar, wrote most of the songs, and had a voice that was hard to forget. You could label DMB a jam band but they were so much more, especially when seen live.

Unlike most bands I’ve seen, DMB didn’t just play to satisfy a mere date on a tour guide. They play for two and a half hours or until buckets of sweat fling from the stage on a 100 degree night in Maryland Heights at Riverport, Verizon Wireless, or whatever they call that place now. Matthews and company make it an experience every time. I’ve seen them play at Busch Stadium and Wrigley Field. I’ve never been disappointed.

Matthews’ dark past and stories define the music that the band plays. A South African native who lost his dad before he was 10 and his sister before he was 30 has plenty of emotional baggage but Matthews always infuses timely matters into his music without drowning out people’s attention spans or preaching to them. He could sneak in a take on the war in Iraq or a gentle slam of a President without turning into Bruce Springsteen.

Matthews’ music marks a lot of events in my life with his music. His flawed yet experimental and risky album Everyday helped me through my first year of college at Mizzou. I proposed to my wife at a DMB concert back in 2002. I remember putting his music on my wife’s stomach when she was pregnant with our son in 2011. I remember being moved to tears by his stories during his live shows with Tim Reynolds.

Great musicians represent pit stops in our lives. Matthews is my driver. When done right, a musician can strike a chord and feel like someone you have known for years, whether it’s the way their music makes you feel or their lyrics show a resemblance. They are a kind friend, if only for 3-5 minutes at a time.

Happy Birthday Dave. Keep playing. Keep creating. The world of music is better with you in it.

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