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If I Had Words


Yesterday was my birthday. It was an almost-perfect day filled with gifts, love, and one extremely well-behaved toddler. I say almost-perfect, because there was that one moment that threatened to dampen my spirits; the one we therapists sometimes refer to as the “black needle.” The inevitable moment that I’ve come to regard as a necessary sense of balance, without which, I actually get nervous. In any case, what happened makes for a pretty funny story.

So, there I was with my husband and daughter in a local swimming pool, when a stranger swam over and asked whether Stella was mine. When I said yes, my new acquaintance said, “You must really spoil her,” and then in a softer voice, “Grandma.” I figured I must have just imagined that last part, but then she asked, “Does her mother like to swim too?”

Luckily, the remainder of my special day was so amazing that I decided to let this little incident slide off my back with the rest of the chlorinated water. But, it did get me thinking about labels, and what they really mean. Honestly, what’s in a name?

As humans, we have a great urge to categorize things, people, and places to make them fit into our own personal schemas. And still some entities are just plain hard to define. I’ve always found the Dave Matthews Band to be one such ensemble. With elements of folk, reggae, funk, blues, jazz, classical, world music, rock, and pop in the mix, it’s often hard to describe their sound. In a way, you just have to hear it to believe it.

Undoubtedly, there are many factors that contribute to DMB’s deft ability to offer such diverse listening experiences, not the least of which being Dave’s early history. Living on three different continents by the age of seven, Dave’s musical childhood influences ranged widely. Everyone from the classical masters like Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and Bach; to popular musicians like The Jackson Five, Bob Dylan, Carlos Santana, Bob Marley, and the Beatles; to South African heroes like King Sunny Ade, Salif Keita and Hugh Masekela, all played a role in shaping young Dave’s instrumental aspirations. And this list was all comprised before our lead singer ever set foot on Charlottesville soil, where he met the likes of Tim Reynolds, Carter Beauford, LeRoi Moore, John D’earth, and so many other outstanding members of the happening C-Ville scene. I’m clearly leaving out a host of important players in Dave’s tuneful development, but I think my point is evident.

And, of course, Dave’s preliminary background is only one ingredient in this multi-dimensional equation. Each member of the Dave Matthews Band brings their own unique talents and  twists to the blend. So much so, that it was with regret, when Dave and the boys realized that their indecision, combined with some off-handed circumstances, led to their group being called the Dave Matthews Band, as this title may not accurately portray the equality between the members. But hey, what’s really in a name?

So, before this rhythm ever quits, let’s drop our attachments to names, labels, and categories. Because, in the end, they are just words, words, words. 

Hayley Bauman, Psy.D.

Author of Serendipity and the Search for True Self