As promised, the Dave Matthews Band rocked Washington State last weekend for the 15th consecutive year. Just a few of the highlights from the group’s most recent stint at the Gorge Amphitheatre include, surprise fan favorites, such as: “American Baby Intro,” “Big Eyed Fish,” “#40,” “Loving Wings,” “Shotgun,” “Raven,” “Halloween,” “Seek Up,” and a killer “Lie In Our Graves,” which, amazingly, wrapped itself around seven unsuspecting tunes. But perhaps the biggest bombshell was dropped during the encore of night two, when the band busted out Blue Öyster Cult's 1976 hit, “Don’t Fear The Reaper.”
Written by Blue Öyster Cult's lead guitarist Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser, this song appears on their 1976 album, “Agents of Fortune,” and grew in popularity to the point that it is now listed as number 405 in “Rolling Stone”s list of the top 500 tracks of all time.
It’s always interesting to me to speculate the reasons behind the new covers that the band chooses to play. In this case, we know that this single has been performed by Yukon Cornelius, bassist Stefan Lessard’s ensemble; so it is possible that he introduced the idea to Dave and the boys. But still, there had to be something about this number that caught the men’s attention and motivated them to make it their own.
Besides the obvious fact that it is an awesome jam, we need not look too far to recognize the synchronicity between the theme of this ditty, and that of so many originated by DMB. With lyrics like,
Seasons don’t fear the reaper,
Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain,
We can be like they are,
Come on baby,
Don’t fear the reaper,
it seems as if the message to live for the now, without letting the fear of death ruin your time on this Earth, comes through pretty clearly. Interestingly, some have looked upon these words and imagined that the writer was discussing a murder-suicide, but Dharma insists that he intended just the opposite. On this topic, he says:
"I felt that I had just achieved some kind of resonance with the psychology of people when I came up with that, I was actually kind of appalled when I first realized that some people were seeing it as an advertisement for suicide or something that was not my intention at all. It is, like, not to be afraid of it, (as opposed to actively bringing it about). It’s basically a love song, where the love transcends the actual physical existence of the partners."
With that description on hand, we can absolutely see how this motif fits in closely with phrases that Dave has transcribed himself. When it comes down to it, it’s all about love. And part of loving life is accepting that death is the natural outcome of our existence. We don’t need to fear it, avoid it, or challenge it. We too can be like the seasons, the wind, the sun, and the rain, all of whom understand the cosmic necessity of change.
Hayley Bauman, Psy.D.
Author of Serendipity and the Search for True Self