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David John Matthews (born January 9, 1967) is a South African-American Grammy Award-winning musician. He is best known as the lead vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist for the Dave Matthews Band.

Early life

David John Matthews was born in Johannesburgmarker, the third of four children born to John and Valerie Matthews. At two years old, Matthews' family immigrated to Yorktown Heights in Westchester County, New Yorkmarker, where his father, a physicist, started working for IBM.

In 1974, the family moved to Cambridge, England, for a year before returning to New York, where his father died from lung cancer in 1977. Biographer Nevin Martell argues that Dave's father's death may be an impetus for his "carpe diem" lyrics. At some point while residing in New York, Matthews attended his first concert when his mother took him to a performance by Pete Seeger. The family moved back to Johannesburgmarker, South Africa, in 1977.

Upon Matthews' graduation from St Stithians College high school, he was faced with conscription into the South African military just as civil disobedience to the practice was becoming widespread. A Quaker (and consequently pacifist), Matthews left South Africa to avoid service.

Matthews moved to New York in 1986 where he worked for I.B.M. for a short time, then joined his mother in Charlottesville, Virginiamarker the same year, a town Matthews' family had lived in before he was born. It was in Charlottesville that he became part of the local music community. Pursuing various interests, Matthews acted in various local productions. Although Matthews had started playing the guitar at the age of 9, it was only in Charlottesville that he started performing publicly. From time to time local star (and future collaborator) Tim Reynolds had Matthews join him on stage, and another friend, Ross Hoffman, persuaded Matthews to record some of his own songs. This eventually led to his first professional musical gig at a modern dance performance by the Miki Liszt Dance Company, based at McGuffey Art Center in Charlottesville, singing "Meaningful Love", composed by John D'earth and Dawn Thompson. In 1991 he hatched the idea to form his own band.

In 1994, Matthews' older sister, Anne, who lived in South Africa, was murdered by her husband, who subsequently committed suicide, on or around January 27 of that year. The event had a drastic effect on Matthews' outlook on life. On January 29, 1994, he performed with Tim Reynolds at The Wetlands in New York where he dedicated that performance "to her memory". Dave Matthews Band's Under the Table and Dreaming, released later that year, was dedicated to her. Anne Matthews was survived by her two children who, upon her death, traveled to America, where Dave and his younger sister Jane took responsibility for their upbringing.

Formation of Dave Matthews Band

Matthews had originally envisioned someone else singing his songs, but instead decided to use his own vocals. After writing his first few songs, including "I'll Back You Up", "The Song that Jane Likes" and "Recently", he began to consider starting his own band. Matthews formed Dave Matthews Band in early 1991 with Boyd Tinsley, LeRoi Moore, Carter Beauford, Stefan Lessard, and Peter Griesar (who left the band in 1993) while working at Miller's. The band's first show was on April 20, 1991, at the Earth Day Festival in Charlottesvillemarker.


Matthews focused primarily on his work with Dave Matthews Band from 1990 to 2003. Since that period, he has occasionally ventured outside the band in various solo performances and records.

Matthews sang on the track "Sing Along" on Blue Man Group's second album The Complex in 2003. Later that year he released a solo album, "Some Devil", which went platinum; its single, "Gravedigger", won a Grammy Award in 2004. To support the album, Matthews toured with a group of musicians (most of whom performed on "Some Devil") under the name Dave Matthews & Friends.

Matthews is also a close friend of Béla Fleck. Matthews appears as a guest vocalist on Béla Fleck and the Flecktones' 1998 release Left of Cool and both Fleck and Flecktones bassist Victor Wooten have made numerous appearances both live and studio with DMB (e.g. Wooten soloed in the second part of The Maker, and also in #41 on the 1998 live album Live in Chicago). The Flecktones also opened for DMB on several tours. Matthews performed a duet with Emmylou Harris on "My Antonia" on her 2000 album, Red Dirt Girl. They also appeared together on the musical television show CMT Crossroads, where the two performed Matthews' "Gravedigger" and the folk song "Long Black Veil."


Before he was known as a musician, Matthews was an amateur actor, appearing onstage in several productions at Charlottesville's Offstage Theatre and Live Arts theatermarker in the early 1990s; the role for which he is best remembered is as a used car salesman in Offstage Theatre's "Just Say No," directed by John Quinn, co-starring Kylie Sicher . Dave Matthews has also acted in four feature films. He played Will Coleman in the 2003 adaptation of the novel Where the Red Fern Grows. In the 2005 film Because of Winn-Dixie (based on the novel of the same name), Matthews portrayed the character of Otis, a timid pet-shop employee. In 2007, Matthews appeared briefly in the movie I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, where he plays a homosexual salesman. In 2008, he appeared in another Adam Sandler movie, You Don't Mess with the Zohan, as a racist character named James. He also had a significant role in Lake City with Sissy Spacek and Troy Garity, in which he portrays the character "Red." He is currently acting in two movies, The Other Side with Lindsay Lohan, Giovanni Ribisi, and Jason Lee. The other movie is In The Woods, starring Debra Winger and Terrence Howard.

In 2007, Matthews guest starred in the Fox drama series House in the episode "Half-Wit." He played a piano-playing musical savant who ended up having half of his brain removed in order to recover from his epilepsy, but at the expense of his musical abilities. Matthews had a piano double for the complex pieces, but played the simpler pieces himself. In the Season One episode of "House" -"Love Hurts"- the song "Some Devil" can be heard playing at the end. In another episode, one of the tracks from Stand Up, "You Might Die Trying" was played ("House M.D", Season Five -"Not Cancer"-) .

The fifth time Matthews appeared as musical guest on Saturday Night Live, on November 2009 (which was also the fourth time the Dave Matthews Band appeared on the show), he made an appearance as Ozzy Osbourne in a skit called "The Mellow Show". Interestingly, Bill Hader impersonated Matthews in the same skit.

With 5 official guest appearances on SNL, Matthews is a member of the "Five-Timers Club".


Since 2000, Matthews has been one of the board members of Farm Aid along with Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young. Matthews owns of farmland near Scottsville, Virginiamarker named Maple Hill Farm, where he grows organic vegetables, flowers, and herbs through a community-supported agriculture program. The organic farm is called, "Best of What's Around," named after one of the band's songs. [27234] He also has a wine-growing operation, Blenheim Vineyards, which utilizes gravity flow and other gentle winemaking techniques.

Matthews is one of the principals of ATO Records, founded in 2000.

Personal life

Matthews married longtime partner Ashley Harper in 2000. The couple has twin daughters, Stella Busina and Grace Anne, born on August 15, 2001 and a son, August Oliver, born on June 19, 2007. They currently reside in Seattlemarker, Washingtonmarker. In a 2001 interview, Matthews stated that he was agnostic.


Matthews has been active in charity work, both on his own and with his bandmates. He has performed benefit concerts for music education, Hurricane Katrina victims, farmers, and victims of the Virginia Tech shooting.[27235] A Concert For Virginia Tech. Retrieved on August 1, 2007. The band's charitable organization, the Bama Works Fund is administered by the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation, benefiting charitable programs in the region.

In 2008 he participated in a music album called Songs for Tibet, together with a number of other celebrities as an initiative to support Tibet and Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso.Dave Matthews Band also donated to the Piedmont Park Conservancy, giving a portion of the profits to the park.


Although his music has often explored political and social issues, Matthews refrained from public campaigning for Presidential candidates until 2004. He cast his support strongly with Democratic nominee John F. Kerry, performing at political events including the Vote for Change tour.

Matthews also supported Barack Obama for President in 2008, both in the primaries and in the general election. On April 6, 2008, he and Tim Reynolds played a concert titled "Change Rocks", at Indiana University, to encourage students to register to vote. The tickets were distributed by the Obama campaign. Questions regarding his citizenship were answered by advertisements and videos on YouTube, where he says he is a "real American" and a "real Virginian", stating that "real Virginians get out and vote". Even though he was recently bereaved by the loss of band co-founder and saxophonist, LeRoi Moore on August 19, he and Tim Reynolds played for DNC delegates on Sunday, August 24 at Red Rocks, and again with Tim at the Virginia Commonwealth University, on October 26, 2008, among other places. Matthews has often supported environmental initiatives, such as biofuel availability and the fight against global climate change.On September 21, 2009, Matthews stated that some of President Barack Obama's harsher critics were motivated by his race, and stated that he "sees it [racism] everywhere" in the United States.


On August 25, 2004, Dave Matthews Band was sued by the state of Illinoismarker for dumping raw sewage from the band's tour bus over a bridge into the Chicago Rivermarker on August 8, 2004, though the band was not on the bus at the time of the incident. The dumping of up to 800 lbs of human waste into the river, in addition to violating water pollution laws, also descended upon more than 100 people in a boat on a tour of Chicago architecture. The band settled the suit by paying $200,000 to an environmental fund. The bus driver, Stefan Wohl was sentenced to probation and community service, and was fired by the band.

Past and Present Equipment

Past Equipment

Present Equipment(Spring/Summer 2009 DMB Tour)
  • Taylor 914c 6-String Acoustic Guitar w/Venetian Cutaway (standard guitar used for all songs not listed below)
  • Taylor 914c 6-String Acoustic Guitar w/Florentine Cutaway (Don't Drink The Water, Crush, Shake Me Like A Monkey)
  • Taylor GA7 (Stay Or Leave, Lying In The Hands Of God, Beach Ball, You Never Know, Sister)
  • Taylor W65 12-string (Grey Street, Raven, Bartender)
  • Jerry Jones Original Single-cutaway Baritone (Smooth Rider, Louisiana Bayou)
  • Veillette Gryphon (Shotgun, Squirm, Baby Blue)
  • National ResoLectric (Alligator Pie)
  • Fender custom Stratocaster (Why I Am)


Studio albums

Live albums


Year Single Chart positions Album
US Mod US Adult US Pop
2003 "Gravedigger" 35 35 Some Devil
"Save Me" 26
2004 "Oh"
2007 "Eh Hee" 73
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Other charted songs

Year Single US Country Album
2008 "I'm Alive" (with Kenny Chesney) 54 Lucky Old Sun

Guest singles

Year Single Artist Chart positions Album
US Country US CAN Country CAN
2009 "I'm Alive"A Kenny Chesney 6 32 6 73 Greatest Hits II

  • A "I'm Alive" charted as an album cut in 2008 before being released as a single in 2009




ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards

  • Most Performed Song from a Motion Picture – "Where Are You Going" (for Mr. Deeds)

Honorary degrees

  • Dave Matthews was awarded D.M.A. honoris causa by Haverford Collegemarker on May 15, 2005; see here for his commencement speech.


  • 2002: Orville Gibson Award for Best Acoustic Guitarist


  2. Tavis Smiley on PBS [1]
  3. Nevin Martell, The Dave Matthews Band: Music for the People (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004), 3-4
  4. Nevin Martell, The Dave Matthews Band: Music for the People (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004), 5
  6. At Ease, ECC newsletter, May 1986, cited in Jacklyn Cock, Colonels & Cadres - War & Gender in South Africa, Oxford University Press, 1991, pg81
  7. Whitefield, Fredricka (2005). "Profiles of U2 and The Dave Matthews Band" (accessed May 3, 2006)
  8. New York Times (May 31, 1998)
  9. "Driven: Dave Matthews - About the Episode" (accessed May 4, 2006)
  11. [2]Dave Matthews Band: Music for the People - Retrieved on February 8, 2008.
  12. [3]Time Pacific Magazine - "And the band plays on..." Retrieved on September 15, 2007.
  13. Welcome to Blenheim Vineyards!
  14. The Official Dave Matthews Band Website :: News
  15. Boston Globe Article 'Dave Matthews Gets Serious - and Playful' by Steve Morse (March 4, 2001)
  16. E-Online (July 22, 2008) Sting, Matthews, Mayer Gamer for Tibet Than Beijing
  18. Dave Matthews for Obama
  24. Haverford College News

External links

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