The other day, a disturbing incident occurred. I was in a local store trying to market my book, and the girl behind the counter noticed my pendant. This sparked a conversation about the Dave Matthews Band, a topic that I'm always up for discussing. That's why it was so shocking when she told me her opinion, which was basically, that all Dave shows are alike. Dumbfounded, I couldn't even find the words to counter her argument, except to say, “No, No... I mean, No!” How do you explain the unsayable? Isn't it just obvious that this is the best band on Earth? Seriously, there's even a Facebook group called Dave Matthews Band - The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread, or something to that effect. But, as I tend do to after awkward encounters, I started thinking, and that's when I realized that part of why DMB is the most amazing band is because of the power of their lyrics. The words that I couldn't find in that instant are ever present, in every song.
I once read that Dave deliberately writes ambiguously because he wants listeners to attach their own meanings to his songs. That Dave gives us the freedom to interpret his music loosely, could partly explain why he has such a large, loyal, and diverse fan base. We find exactly what we need at any given moment just by listening. Like a musical Rorschach test, each person discovers their own idiosyncratic message, and makes of it what she will. Miraculously, the same person can make different sense of the exact same verse at varying times, depending on what that person is needing to hear. We've all experienced that stunning moment of insight when the stars align and a song that we've heard a thousand times takes on a new significance. And of course, as soon as we think we've figured out the essence of a certain song, Dave goes and changes the lyrics on us! But that's part of the magic. Words don't have to be set in stone; rather, they can be dynamic, changing, and very powerful.
Then there are those lyrics that grabbed hold of us the first time we heard them and never let go. The Dreaming Tree, for example, is one of those songs that just captures me every time I listen to it. Something about the idea of wanting to go back to a simpler time when promises felt like concrete reality truly resonates, and in the Live Trax 2008 version, the quest to stand in the light feels very profound. Maybe you're reading this and wondering how I could be talking about the same Dreaming Tree that you know and love for completely different reasons. That's the beauty of interpretation. There's room for everyone's view. Well, except for the view of the person who I met at the bookstore! But if I ever run into her again, I'm prepared to quote Rainer Maria Rilke who said, “Works of art are of an infinite solitude and no means of approach is so useless as criticism. Only love can touch and hold them and be fair to them.” Or, in Dave's words, “All we need is the good light of love in here.”
Hayley Bauman, Psy.D.
Author of Serendipity and the Search for True Self