The best kind of advice is honest, direct, and energizing. Luckily, Dave Matthew’s sister, Jane, must have known this when she strongly encouraged her brother to simply put down some lyrics after he complained to her of writer’s block. According to Dave, it was this suggestion that ultimately led to the song, “Sister,” which he commonly refers to as “the quietest thing in the room.” We already knew of Jane’s fabulous taste in music since she apparently prefers “The Song That Jane Likes,” and now we have her to thank for the inception of this beautiful arrangement as well.
While this piece is easily recognized, there is a lesser known compilation that fans have also dubbed “Sister.” Played only once, on 3/8/94 in Boulder, Colorado, this melody is thought to be unrelated to the “Sister” that Jane inspired. The poignant lyrics speak to Matthew’s tragic loss of his sister, Anne, who was murdered earlier that same year, as well as, the untimely death of his father, which occurred while he was still small enough to believe that “the moon was chasing (him)." These painful experiences clearly trickle through much of Dave’s music, and could even be the basis for his philosophy to “eat, drink, and be merry,” rather than “burn the day away.”
Intelligibly, Dave’s brotherly love is behind both of these musical creations, and yet, I also wonder about the universal meaning of the word sister. We tend to think of our personal associations, our female siblings and friends, whom we consider dear, when we hear that label. But what about the broader significance of this archetype; the feminine in us all, the yin to our yang. In depth psychology we postulate that within each of us exists both masculine and feminine energies, regardless of our gender. Masculine energies emerge in qualities, such as, assertiveness, competitiveness, and eagerness, while feminine energies include, being nurturing, receptive, and flexible. Both types of attributes are positive and necessary, at times, and a well rounded person exhibits a nice balance of these traits. On a global level, many theorists believe that part of our troubles at this time stem from an over-identification with strictly masculine characteristics, and that what we need from world leaders is more of a feminine approach. This means integrating values like communication and connection into decision making, rather than constantly pushing the bottom line.
Dave is one such pioneer. His august commitment to environmentally friendly practices is evident across the board. His efforts range from reducing bottled water waste at shows to his gentle farming techniques, making it easy to see that he is a stellar example of a businessman who hasn’t forgotten the importance of relationship. Instead of solely taking from the earth, he focuses on giving back as well. This reciprocal style is undeniably feminine and quite fitting for a man whose phenomenal band performed their very first concert on Earth Day.
In fact, taking another look at the vocals to “Sister,” it even seems possible to imagine that this could be a love song from Dave to Mother Earth herself.
Sister, I hear you laugh, my heart fills full up,
Keep me please.
Sister, when you cry, I feel your tears running down my face,
Sister, sister, you keep me.
Hayley Bauman, Psy.D.
Serendipity and the Search for True Self