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5 Life Lessons I Learned from Dave Matthews Band

Updated on May 1, 2014

Dave Matthews Band was formed in 1991, and since that time, they have put out nine studio albums, six of which have debuted at number one on the Billboard chart. They have a huge fan base, and they have sold over 30 million records. Their lyrics are very hard to interpret at times. Jake Vigliotti describes the band's lyrics as, "complex, rich, deep, and (often) evolving."

While some lyrics are extremely hard to decipher, some of the lyrics send out a message so profound that they can offer listeners lessons on life, love, and dealing with grief. When their lyrics are paired with their jam band style of music, magic is truly made. Being a DMB fan for many years, now, I have thoroughly enjoyed deciphering their lyrics in a way that makes sense to me, which is not always an easy task. Here is a list of some of the lessons I have learned through their songs and lyrics.

1. Cherish what you have in your own life because others may be losing something that you still get to enjoy. Do not take your life for granted.

The song, “Funny the Way It Is”, illustrates to listeners the contradictions that occur in life every day. The song contains lyrics like, “Somebody’s going hungry, someone else is eating out”, “Somebody’s heart is broken, it becomes your favorite song”, and, my personal favorite, “On a soldier’s last breath, his baby [i]s being born”. These lyrics make us take a step back and examine life on a deeper level. It makes us think about those times we go out to eat simply because we don’t feel like cooking. Someone at that exact moment would give anything to be able to cook dinner, or eat anything, for that matter. While we complain about sleepless nights with a newborn, there are babies out there who may never meet their mother or father.

2. Life is too short to not take chances and try new things.

The song “Ants Marching”, gives listeners an interesting comparison. Humans are like ants, moving in a constant formation, on a consistent path, never taking time to experience life around us. This message comes through in the lyrics, “Never changes a thing / The week ends the weeks begins”, “People in every direction / No words exchanged / No time to exchange them”, and “And all the little ants are marching / Red and black antennas waving / They all do it the same / They all do it the same way”. The songs ends with the line, “Lights down, you up and die”, which is interesting because the entire song describes aspects of mundane lives with the last word in the song being die.

3. This world is a mess, and only we can fix it.

The song “Mercy”, on the band’s most recent album Away From the World, is an embellishment on Gandhi’s quote, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world” (BrainyQuote). The song’s message is pretty clear with lyrics like, “Don’t give up / I know you can see / All the world and the mess that we’re making”, ”Stand up for what we need to be”, and “Oh one by one we could turn it around”. I am not going to turn this into a political or religious views debate, but I think it is clear that the song is saying there are some issues in the world, today, and they are issues that we have created. We need to start doing what is necessary to fix the mistakes that have been made.

4. We need to be happy with what God has given us: abilities, opportunities, etc.

Not too sound cliché, but the lesson taught in the song “Big Eyed Fish” is that the grass is not always greener on the other side. This song could be easily adapted to a children’s book. It tells the story of a fish (who happens to have big eyes) that dreams of being a bird, he finally landed himself onto the beach, but he died and the song says, “beneath the sea is where a fish should be”. Later in the song, the lyrics tell the story of a monkey who ran off to the city. The lyrics tell us about what happened to the monkey with the words, “But look at him now lost tired living in the street / As good as dead you see what a monkey does – stay up your tree”. With lyrics like these, there is not a lot of need for further explanation.

5. Enjoy your life while you are here.

The song “Tripping Billies” contains a line that Dave Matthews Band is probably most known for: “Eat, drink and be merry / for tomorrow we die”. This can be interpreted many different ways by different people. Some people use this line to justify drinking (alcohol). Personally, I am not a drinker, so I find different interpretation. I take it to mean that life is short, and we never know when our time here will end, so we should take the time to enjoy our lives.


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