KUDOS: How Dave Matthews Band Gives Back to Its Charlottesville Roots
By John Dickerson, CBS This Morning | The Dave Matthews Band is among the world’s most successful groups in popular music. Their first new album in six years, “Come Tomorrow,” was released last June. It was a record-setting seventh in a row to debut at No. 1. But for all its fame, The Dave Matthews Band hasn’t forgotten the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, where it all began.
No matter how loudly the crowd cheers wherever the band performs, there is something about playing in Charlottesville that keeps frontman Dave Matthews grounded: “It’s always harder to play at home. It’s a weird thing. It always is a homecoming. It’s always joyful, but you always want to do better.”
Though he now lives out West, Matthews says his roots remain here, where his eponymous band began its ascent to the top of the Billboard charts in the early ’90s.
“I wrote a lot of my songs in that pink warehouse,” he said while visiting with “CBS This Morning” co-host John Dickerson. “I couldn’t have begged to have a greater experience than play in this band, in my life, really. I want some other experiences, but I don’t feel like I’m entitled to them because, Jesus, how can this happen to one person?”
Blessed with fame, but also generosity, The Dave Matthews Band has made a habit of sharing its good fortune. They’ve given away more than $40 million.
The band recently committed $5 million to re-imagine public housing in Charlottesville, beginning with a compete renovation of a residential apartment building downtown.
“Things are falling apart, elevators don’t work,” Matthews said. “It’s amazing that you can be in the middle of everything and still be this neglected.”
“You talked about feeling roots in Charlottesville. You bounced around a lot before that,” Dickerson said.
“My father and mother are South African,” Matthews said. “My dad was a physicist and he did research at UVA. He passed away when I was kid. And then we went back to South Africa for the support of family that was there.”
Matthews went to high school there while the segregationist apartheid law was still in place.
“And then when I finished high school, I got my call-up papers to join the military there. And I thought, that’s not something I’m desperate to do. And so I moved back to the States,” Matthews explained. “But when I came back to America, everywhere I looked there was racism. And it was sort of amazing, but it hit me in the face all the time.”
“Charlottesville itself was hit in the face in August of 2017 with the white supremacists. How did that make you feel, as somebody who put down roots in Charlottesville?” Dickerson asked.
“I don’t know if it’s an irony, but I was in South Africa and I was with family there,” Matthews said. “And my friend Brian phoned me and said, ‘I think I’ve just witnessed a murder. I think I’ve just witnessed a hate crime.’ It’s very hard when you look at what happened in this town, the destruction of a beautiful possibility.”
“And it just broke my heart to see it happen,” Matthews said. “But I do think that maybe we can make some beautiful progress out of that.”
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