January 7, 2006

DMB: Bartender

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 6:33 pm

While on vacation, I spent a lot of time listening to music, particularly music by the Dave Matthews Band. I’ve listened to contemporary Christian music over the years, but I’m always more inspired by Christian themes in music by nominally secular artists. For example, the single greatest Christian lyric, in my opinion, comes from Bono’s When Love Comes to Town:

I was there when they crucified my Lord
I held the scabbard when the soldier drew his sword.
I threw the dice when they pierced his side
But I’ve seen love conquer the great divide.

I’ve been struck lately by the religious themes in Dave Matthews‘ lyrics. It’s tempting to speculate on Matthews’ religous beliefs, and view his fairly large oeuvre in the light of those beliefs. But a long-standing principle of literary criticism is that we must look at any poem, book or lyric without regard to statements the author has made about its meaning or his beliefs. The words must stand alone. They say what they say, and all else is irrelevant. Given this, I remain blissfully ignorant regarding Dave Matthews’ religious beliefs, but enjoy his lyrics on their own merits.

(Oh, and his music is good too.)

Given all this, here are the lyrics to Bartender, for your spiritual contemplation. (These lyrics are based on the version from the Weekend on the Rocks CD.)

Bartender

If I go before I’m old
Oh brother of mine please don’t forget me if I go
Bartender please, fill my glass for me
With the wine you gave Jesus that sets him free, after three days in the ground

Oh and if I die before my time
Oh sweet sister of mine please don’t regret me if I die
Bartender please, fill my glass for me
With the wine you gave Jesus that sets him free after three days in the ground
Bartender please, fill my glass for me
With the wine you gave Jesus that sets him free after three days in the ground, in the ground

I’m on bended knees I pray oh Bartender please
When I was young I didn’t think about it,
Now I just want to run and hide
I’m on bended knee father please

Oh if all this gold, should steal my soul away
Oh dear mother of mine, please redirect me if this gold
Bartender you see, the wine that’s drinking me
Came from the vine that strung Judas from the devil’s tree it has roots
Deep deep in the ground

Bartender you see, the wine that’s drinking me
Came from the vine that strung Judas from the devil’s tree it has roots
Deep deep in the ground, in the ground

I’m on bended knee I pray Bartender please
I’m on bended knee please father please
When I was young I didn’t think about it,
Now I just want to run and hide
I’m on bended knee Bartender please
Bartender please

[Outro – I can’t find the words to this online, and can’t hear it clearly enough from the album. If you can make it out, let me know.]

What do these lyrics mean to you?

7 Comments

  1. This has a sort of Eucharist theme going on. Grace and Judgement are there.I like Dave Matthews.

    Comment by Rich — January 8, 2006 @ 7:14 am

  2. Great blog,
    I ran into a juke joint when I heard a guitar scream
    The notes were turning blue, I was dazing in a dream
    As the music played I saw my life turn around
    That was the day before love came to town.
    I was mesmerized by these lyrics when I was 17 growing up as a pastor’s kid. The youth pastor gave me a verbal tongue lashing and told me rock and role was the devils music. I’m not sure about the Dave Matthews lyrics but I guess we can all tell he’s wrestling with something spiritual. I think when heaven comes to earth we will be amazed at who’s there and who’s not.

    Comment by ben — January 15, 2006 @ 2:07 am

  3. Hopefully this won’t affect your enjoyment of Dave Matthews one way or another, but he grew up in a Quaker household, and he’s a strong pacifist. From what I’ve read, he’s not really a follower of any religion, but his music almost always reflects a deep respect for other people…

    Comment by matthew — January 16, 2006 @ 6:23 pm

  4. I think Dave Matthews is an incredible artist along with the rest of his band they are all extremely talented and along with the great music Dave always has great lyrics to go with them, I do not know exactly his standings religiously but i do believe that bartender has religious aspects to it, I have also heard that the song is referring to his alcohol addiction I am trying to research into this at the moment because I am not sure if it is correct but either way you interpret it, the song is wonderful

    Comment by Jonny — April 22, 2006 @ 12:54 pm

  5. Thanks for sharing this! Dwight (religiousliberal.blogspot.com) and I have been co-hosting a progressive christian radio show for almost a year now, and we generally look for “Christian themes in music by nominally secular artists.” I’m adding this to our playlist. The idea for the show came when Dwight mentioned that he thought the Indigo Girls were the best Christian band around. 😉 Check it out sometime! It is called Faithfully Subversive and can be heard at 9 a.m. (Central Time) on Thursdays at http://www.wdbx.com. And please, please feel free to let us know of any other songs you’ve heard which have intriguing lyrics about progressive christian values. We really like to find new indie artists, but we also play a lot of well-known groups. faithfullysubversive at the gmail

    Comment by Virginia — December 26, 2006 @ 6:27 pm

  6. I like DMB as well i might be a bit baised as we are from the same country and we grew up during the same time, we are the last Apartheid generation of South Africa. I now live in the usa as well like dave.

    There are lots to be said about Apartheid, but lets not getinto it now, We were a Christian Nation, and as such until i moved to america i had never in my life met a person that didnt grow up giong to church. This made most people think they were saved as if just giong to church could do it. But all in all everysouth african from my generation and older have a very strong Christian rooting in our lifes and upbringing. So it doesnt suprise me that on his deepest level as when he writes such great songs Dave, goes back to what we all know ….God is there…please God help…..

    Good site by the way.

    Cheers

    Comment by BoerHenning — January 2, 2007 @ 12:03 am

  7. I have also looked in to Daves lyrics. All I know is that he is really well educated on chrisitian faith and he has alot of strong christian overtones, however he is agnostic (m/s) he use to be a quaker by reverted in the late 90’s. His wife is baptist so he might have converted back I don’t know. If you like this song listen to the christmas song he has out, or tripping billies

    God Bless You

    Comment by Chris McCurdy — April 9, 2007 @ 8:02 pm

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