meta-script11 Essential Dave Matthews Band Songs: From "What Would You Say" To "Madman's Eyes" |
Dave Matthews Band
Dave Matthews Band

Photo: Sanjay Suchak


11 Essential Dave Matthews Band Songs: From "What Would You Say" To "Madman's Eyes"

Ahead of their new album 'Walk Around the Moon,' here are 11 gateway tracks by Dave Matthews Band — a group that perforated the hearts of millions by being authentically themselves.

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2023 - 07:50 pm

If you were alive and cognizant in the '90s and early 2000s, the three words "Dave Matthews Band" probably conjure visions of frat houses, tailgate parties and sunburned revelry. In a 2018 Talkhouse essay promoting a re-recording of DMB's lost album, The Lillywhite Sessions, singer/songwriter Ryley Walker summed up the Matthews milieu.

"My roots run deep into a flat cornfield of Illinois surrounded by Buffalo Wild Wings and Payless Shoes that are housed inside of a Target inside of a Sam's Club," Walker wrote about his upbringing in Rockford, Illinois. "[DMB] were the stuff of legend. Their annual summer tour was the mecca for suburban townies to go get juiced up at."

However loving, Walker's Matthews essay sums up many outsider's associations with the band. But it's worth considering that most of the tags pinned on Dave Matthews are specious to facile. Take the categorization of "jam band"; it's right there on their Wikipedia, which may lead outsiders to lump them in with Phish or Dead & Company.

But while DMB command a jam-adjacent audience — and mixes up their setlists every night like a jam band — they're actually something of an unclassifiable, genreless, hydra-headed beast. And their authentic nature is all over their new album, Walk Around the Moon, out May 19.

"Dave Matthews [is] from South Africa, and he went back in his early teens and grew up there for a number of years," DMB's saxophonist and woodwinds player, Jeff Coffin, explained to in 2022. "His music is very influenced by… those dances, by that structure of music, and there's a hybrid of things that are going on there.

"So, to me, using the term 'jam band' for a group like that doesn't do it justice at all," he continued. "I don't have any idea what you'd call it." That's exactly how Dave neophytes should approach Planet Matthews: with a completely open mind, divorced from calcified associations. 

Now consisting of Matthews, Coffin, lead guitarist Tim Reynolds, trumpeter Rashawn Ross, keyboardist Buddy Strong, bassist Stefan Lessard, and drummer Carter Beauford — all virtuosos in their own rights — the GRAMMY winners have racked up numerous hits across the decades. Therefore, any list of essential songs is bound to somewhat mirror the most famous ones.

But once you've absorbed these 11, don't stop — Dave Matthews Band weren't just the poster children for try-everything-once '90s radio; they were and are an American musical institution. Here are 11 gateway tracks for a group that perforated the hearts of millions by being only themselves.

"What Would You Say" (Under the Table and Dreaming, 1994)

With a limbic acoustic guitar intro, a blast of harmonica and a crashing drum intro, DMB arrived fully formed with "What Would You Say." It's not only the first song on their debut album; with it, they made their national TV debut on "The Late Show With David Letterman." 

If Beauford's inimitable grooves and Matthews' idiosyncratic turns of phrase, like "The bear ate his head, thought it was a candy," hook you, keep going; Dave's almost certainly for you.

"Satellite" (Under the Table and Dreaming, 1994)

The celestial, heart-bursting "Satellite" is another key early Matthews track; much like "What Would You Say," it evades concrete meaning and goes for a rush of emotion. "Satellite" further establishes DMB's slippery rhythms and beautifully unctuous timbres; it just feels good in the bones.

"Ants Marching" (Under the Table and Dreaming, 1994)

The hip-swinging "Ants Marching" is a live DMB favorite for a very good reason. 

Once former DMB violinist Boyd Tinsley's violin blends with the late LeRoi Moore's soprano saxophone for that opening fanfare, your ear is turned; you want to hear every harmonic and rhythmic twist and turn "Ants Marching" will take.

"Crash Into Me" (Crash, 1996)

One of the great heavy-breathing, voyeuristic character songs in the pop/rock canon (hello, "Every Breath You Take"), "Crash Into Me" was inescapable in its day; the 2017 film Lady Bird revitalized this paradoxical lovemaking jam for a new generation.

"I have a strange relationship with a lot of music that I've written," Matthews told Vulture in 2018 about the song's inclusion. "It was so lovely to see the song used as a central tool in someone else's story."

"#41" (Crash, 1996)

Fan favorite "#41" also comes from their hit second album Crash. (As per the title, it was the 41st song the band wrote.) 

It came at a time of professional strife for Matthews; after they booted manager and mentor Ross Hoffman due to creative differences, Hoffman sued, claiming he was owed a share of their profits. 

The gorgeous "#41" was a response to this calamity — while the lyrics are opaque, they're suffused with the sensation of grappling in the dark. 

"I will go in this way/ Oh, and I'll find my own way out," Matthews sings. "I won't tell you what to be/ Oh no, but I'm coming to much more."

"Don't Drink the Water" (Before These Crowded Streets, 1998)

This urgent, guttural classic from DMB's third album, Before These Crowded Streets, addresses apartheid as well as the plight of Indigenous Americans. 

Guest banjoist Béla Fleck gives "Don't Drink the Water" a droning, ominous energy — a dark sense of ancestral communion.

"Don't Drink the Water" only builds and builds in intensity, with Matthews sounding more and more ferocious, until the final line, which sums it all up: "There's blood in the water."

"Gray Street" (Busted Stuff, 2002)

The aforementioned Lillywhite Sessions, helmed by Steve Lillywhite, is the dark-horse favorite of the true heads: it exemplifies Dark Dave. 

Most of the Lillywhite Sessions tunes made it on their fourth album, Busted Stuff; the radiant "Gray Street" anchors both the album that was and the one that wasn't.

Following a woman staving off feelings of despondency,  "Gray Street" exposes Dave Matthews Band's vulnerable, rubbed-raw pop heart.

By the time the chorus hits ("It feels like cold blue ice in her heart/ When all the colors mix together/ To gray!), that Matthews magic is on full display.

"American Baby" (Stand Up, 2005)

Sometimes known as the controversial DMB disc due to its baked-in anti-piracy program, DMB's underrated mid-period album Stand Up certainly has its proponents — Ryley Walker among them

The gleaming, streamlined "American Baby" is actually about national identity, but easily doubles as a straightforward pop-rocker about romance; double-fist it with sensuous album highlight "Dreamgirl," and they go down just the same.

"Why I Am" (Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King, 2009)

Arguably no schism or loss in the DMB camp — the aforementioned falling out with Ross Hoffman, the departure of Boyd Tinsley amid a sexual misconduct lawsuit — looms larger than the death of their founding saxophonist, LeRoi Moore, in 2008.

"He was a difficult friend, but boy, was he one of the greatest friends I had," Matthews later expressed. "And certainly one of the greatest musicians I heard."

Despite being written and recorded prior to Moore's death — and featuring Moore on it — "Why I Am" took on added resonance on Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King, the band's monument to Moore after his passing.

"This song is definitely about death. The whole thing of 'When my ghost takes me from you, you will remember the fool that I am, so don't cry, baby don't cry,'" Matthews later told Relix. "The urgency of living, I think, is very present in this song."

"Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin)" (Come Tomorrow, 2018)

After Tinsley's dismissal, DMB were a different band — yet again. 

"I'm used to turning to my right and seeing him going bananas — some days doing it better than other days," Matthews said in the candid Vulture interview. "I don't know how it's going to be without him there… I'm going to miss having that whirling-dervish Adonis-Muppet over there on my right."

Despite this conspicuously missing piece of the puzzle, Dave Matthews Band soldiered on with a sense of hard-won camaraderie — and the majestic Come Tomorrow single "Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin)" sounds like the crew raising aloft a weathered flag.

"Madman's Eyes" (Walk Around the Moon, 2023)

When Matthews said "I have a strange relationship with a lot of music that I've written," he wasn't lying; speaking to Vulture, he called 2012's acclaimed Away From the World "fine."

"I think it was a great album and then I let people convince me it wasn't finished. I did a disservice to the music," he said. "I kept working on it and it lost a lot. It's too bad I didn't say, 'No, you're wrong. The music may be flawed and splintered but it's genuine. It's done.'"

Whatever Matthews' qualms with his own work, "Madman's Eyes," from their new album Walk Around the Moon, is a crusher of a single, fueled by the dark mysticism of Coffin's soprano hook.

Dave Matthews Band have a complicated history, and they will remain multivalent, misunderstood, and fiercely beloved. They'll keep evolving in tandem with their fanbase. But "compartmentalizable" is an attribute that remains impossible to imagine.

Jeff Coffin On His GRAMMY-Nominated Album 'Between Dreaming And Joy,' Constant Education, Playing With Dave Matthews & Béla Fleck

Jeff Coffin
Jeff Coffin

Photo: Rodrigo Simas


Jeff Coffin On His GRAMMY-Nominated Album 'Between Dreaming And Joy,' Constant Education, Playing With Dave Matthews & Béla Fleck

Jeff Coffin’s legacies with Dave Matthews Band and Béla Fleck and the Flecktones are more than enough to hang his hat on. But his solo career is a kaleidoscope of ideas, connected to musical traditions from all over the world.

GRAMMYs/Jan 12, 2023 - 07:21 pm

Hanging out with Jeff Coffin is a bit like listening to his music. Engulfed in a whirlwind of musical references, you’re never lost. Music seems dizzyingly limitless when he describes it, like the fractals in the cartoon eye on his new album's self-drawn cover.

For a three-time GRAMMY winner with bona fides in two household-name bands, Dave Matthews Band and Béla Fleck and the Flecktones — Coffin has zero airs and a whole lot of music knowledge. 

Our conversation left me to check out Albert Ayler's rip-your-heart-out gospel album Goin' Home, Van Morrison's country-breezy Tupelo Honey and Charles Mingus' warped masterpiece Oh Yeah

Understanding Coffin’s background enhances the listening experience of his inspired latest release, 2022's Between Dreaming and Joy, which is nominated for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

Read More: 2023 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Complete Nominees List

Featuring "Middle Eastern frame drums, Brazilian percussion, Moroccan vocals, a turntable artist, multiple horns, an ice cream truck, a Hungarian tárogató and an African ngoni" — as well as modern greats like guitarist Robben Ford, bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Chester Thompson — the album feels jubilant and companionable.

It’s surprising to learn the album was recorded completely remotely. 

"It was crafted in a way that I've really never crafted a record before," Coffin tells in its New York Chapter Office, ahead of DMB's sold-out Madison Square Garden gig. So, to him, this GRAMMY nomination is extra sweet: "it's a recognition of the process, but also a recognition of the work. Not just in this record, but the 19 others before it."

If you're familiar with Fleck and/or Matthews but not so much Coffin and his musical universe, let Between Dreaming and Joy act as a gateway to all 19 — with the Mu'tet, in co-billed LPs, all of it. And read on for an in-depth interview with the musician, clinician and searcher.

Jeff Coffin

Jeff Coffin. Photo: Rodrigo Simas

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Congratulations on your nomination for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album at the 2023 GRAMMYs. What role has the Recording Academy played in your career over the decades?

You know, when I was in the Flecktones, we were nominated a number of times; I won three GRAMMYs with Béla. It's always kind of been interwoven with the things that I've done. 

The Flecktones were a hard band to pin down. We won for Best Pop Instrumental Album [for 2008's Jingle All the Way; we were nominated [that same year] for Best Country Instrumental Performance [for "Sleigh Ride"].

It's interesting; I remember the first time we were nominated was for Left of Cool [at the 1999 GRAMMYs]. I remember it being my first time there, and just being like, "Wow, this is unbelievable." We didn't win, and I remember thinking that I wasn't disappointed: Oh, it's OK, it's not a big deal that we didn't win. It reaffirmed that this is not why I do what I do.

You know, it's funny. [With Dave Matthews Band], it's a machine. We have like 90 people on the road with us, of course, and the band is really all about the music. We've talked about it a lot: how the music has got to come first.


I think that music is a service industry. I think that first, we serve the music. Then, we serve the other musicians we're playing with, and then we serve the audience. So, we're at least fourth on the list. But by serving those others, we get served.

I talk to my students about this all the time: how important it is to recognize that circle. I think about management, and I'm thinking, Well, they're just thinking dollars and butts in seats. Which I understand: that's part of it. But I feel a disconnect sometimes in the way they approach things, as opposed to the way we approach things.

So, for me, with awards and accolades and things like that: I've had my fair share, and I'm very honored and grateful for that. But that's not why I do it. I'm not like, I'm going to do this record and submit it for a GRAMMY.

Read More: Béla Fleck Has Always Been Told He's The Best. But To Him, There Is No Best.

At this point, you've won three GRAMMYs. How does it feel to earn another nomination for Between Dreaming and Joy?

It's big for me. It really is. There was a ton of work put into it during the pandemic. Most of the record was remote, although you'd never know listening to it. It was crafted in a way that I've really never crafted a record before. So, it's a recognition of the process, but also a recognition of the work. Not just in this record, but the 19 others before it.

I've got six others in the can that I'm working on, that are basically ready to go. It was a very prolific time for me during the lockdown. So, this material on the record was culled from a lot of other stuff I had recorded also. 

I wrote about 30 or 34 new tunes, and they were all over the place from the standpoint of genre or style. So, when I put this together, I had to decide which tunes I was going to put into this pot. There are a couple that I was on the fence about initially, but I'm really glad they're on there because it kind of diverges, and then comes back into a particular space.

So, yeah, I'm just thrilled about it, and the GRAMMY Foundation [now the GRAMMY Museum Foundation] has been part of that. I love what they do educationally; I want to be more involved with that, because I do a lot of education work outside of touring. I've done 325-plus clinics over the years, and I've been teaching at Vanderbilt now for eight years.

Tell me more about your teaching style, and how it's in dialogue with the other parts of your career.

I've looked at people that have kind of been DIY, like Dave Liebman, Bob Mintzer, Bobby Shew, these kinds of people. I don't try to do exactly what they did, because that's how they see things. But I've been able to kind of muddle out a career [incorporating] certain aspects of what they do.

The books that I've written are all for my students; they have nothing to do with the things that I'm working on, because I've already done it. So, the method books, the etude books — I have something called The Road Book, which is all the things you do before you leave the driveway. These are for students that are just getting out there and doing this stuff, to help them along the way.

I really respect what [The Recording Academy] has done educationally around the country and the world. I think it's awesome, and really makes a big difference. You know, music is an essential part of education on every level — not just in higher education, but deep in the schools. A lot of those programs are being cut, and it's categorically unfair.

Let's talk a little more about Between Dreaming and Joy. You mentioned that you pulled these songs from disparate sources. So what was the throughline, or thesis? What made these songs swim together in the same tank?

When I was with Béla, one of the things I remember him talking about was the sequence of a record, and talking about how it really makes or breaks a record. It's really the flow, now that I think about it. 

I put a lot of effort into putting sequences together. The middle tune, "Spinning Plates," is just me — all me, all horns. I think there's percussion on there, and it's sort of the place where you would flip the record over. It's a breath between the first and second section of the record. I did it that way on purpose.

It's kind of the spirit of the tunes that [make them] work. "Vinnie the Crow" wouldn't have worked in any other place except for opening the record.

It's very strident. It has that swagger in it.

Yeah, and it has the only co-writer on the whole record: a drummer named Alex Clayton, who was living in Nashville and a Belmont student. He's turned me on to some really great s—. He was the first person who ever told me about Anderson .Paak and Donald Glover. He's really got his ear in these different places. 

He's a very, very dear friend. We were just hanging out and were like, "Let's write a tune." He had a groove, so I put some stuff down, and just kind of went from there.

But coming back to the sequence: I want it to be a journey. I don't want it to be the same tune written seven or eight different times. I wanted to touch on the different influences and interests I had musically, but not be so removed from the other tunes that it doesn't connect.

Because there's a bunch of stuff that I also wrote that's very global music-oriented. There's this one tune written off this traditional Peruvian folk melody that wouldn't have fit on this record. It's this really elaborate thing. I've got Brazilian percussion on it. There's some Afrobeat stuff that I did with Chester Thompson. 

There's a lot of pretty esoteric stuff, too. [Turns to publicist Lydia Liebman, Dave Liebman's daughter] Stuff your pops would be way more into than this kind of thing.

Jeff Coffin

Jeff Coffin. Photo: Rodrigo Simas

I remember something Béla said to me years ago: "I'll never be an Indian musician. I'll never be an African musician. But I can bring those elements into what I do, and have them inspire the music that I make." 

And it's the same with Dave Matthews. He's from South Africa, and he went back in his early teens and grew up there for a number of years. His music is very influenced by that music — by those dances, by that structure of music, and there's a hybrid of things that are going on there. So, to me, using the term "jam band" for a group like that doesn't do it justice at all. I don't have any idea what you'd call it.

I love when they asked Miles about his music. They said it was jazz, but they said, "What should we call it?" He said, "Call it music." I'm totally down with that, and that's how I look at it. It's just music.

It's coming from different places I'm influenced by. Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, et cetera, et cetera: they're all the same spirit. That's what I'm looking for in the music that I make, the players I play with, the way I'm putting something together. I like art that is mysterious — that I don't totally understand.

**We first spoke for an article about Yusef Lateef. Given the sheer range of ethnic instruments you play on Between Dreaming and Joy, it seems like you're in his lineage. Can you talk about your ongoing process of learning new instruments and weaving them into your work — choosing what's appropriate and what isn't?**

Here's the thing, too: I know a lot of people who play a lot of different instruments. Michael League was playing Moroccan frame drums, but everybody knows Michael from playing bass with Snarky Puppy. And the ngoni on "When Birds Sing" was played by a Moroccan woman named Sarah Ariche, who also sang. The title is kind about her, also: what she's doing is this angelic vocal stuff.

I'm really interested in a lot of different sounds. Some of this is also coming from people like Roland Kirk. This gets into a whole other tangent, but the idea of string theory is that everything is a vibration; therefore, everything is sound.

I have the tárogató I bought from Charles Lloyd; my bass flute is Yusef Lateef's. I feel like I'm just the curator of these instruments, because I'm always like, "This is Yusef Lateef's bass flute." I don't ever say, "This is my bass flute." [Same with] the tárogató. There's kind of a spirit imbued in the instruments.

You're calling out a spirit, even when the musician is alive and well — in Lloyd's case.

Right, yeah. I bought Yusef's main tenor and bass flute after he passed. The first time I played the tenor, I recorded it; I was like, I want to hear what happens the first time. And this tune came out. I called it "Yusef." And as I tell people, he left the tune in the horn. It's a very powerful tune. My hands were off of it.

For those who might know Dave or Béla but not be familiar with your solo work, with the Mutet or otherwise: how do you conceptualize it in relation to these household names? What's the nature of that isthmus between these two massive entities?

Let me take a step back. 

So, people ask about my influences. My main influences are people like Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Ornette. Then there are the people I played with all these years, having spent 14 years with Béla, Victor Wooten and Roy Wooten — Future Man. And now, 14 years with Dave, [bassist] Stefan [Lessard], [trumpeter] Rashawn [Ross], [violinist] Boyd [Tinsley] when he was in the band, [drummer] Carter Beauford, [guitarist] Tim Reynolds, and now [keyboardist] Buddy Strong. 

I mean, we are creating every single night for three hours a night — playing some of the same music, but recreating it nightly also. So, there are no more profound influences on me than those players: the people that I play with at home, that I've had in my bands, where we're digging deep in a way that is proactive.

So, when I'm listening, I'm active in that process, but I'm not participatory in that process — in the sense that I'm not making music when I'm listening to a Coltrane record or whatever. But when I'm making music, I'm participatory; even if I'm being silent, I'm still part of what's going on. To me, that changes everything.

Jeff Coffin

Jeff Coffin. Photo: Rodrigo Simas

Can you connect this to your experiences with Matthews and the Flecktones?

I remember that when I first started playing with Béla, I was like, "I don't know any of your music; your audience knows the music better than I do." Which was the same thing when I joined Matthews: "The audience" — they still do, actually — "knows all the words."

With the Flecktones, one of things that was an epiphany for me was that I would look out and see people dancing. We'd be playing in 13 or 17 or some crazy s—, or moving time signatures throughout the piece.

But what it made me realize is that it's all on up or down. It doesn't even matter. Like, even on the Matthews stuff, there's a tune called "Rapunzel." I remember the first time we heard it, when I was with Béla because we were doing the opening dates. 

We couldn't figure out the time signature. You have four great musicians who are listening to this and just going, "What is going on?" It's in five, but if you listen to it, you would not know that it's in five, unless you're really tuning in and going, "OK, I've got to figure this out," or watching somebody's foot, given the way Carter's playing polyrhythmically over it.

But, again, we joke about this: everything's in one. Just one-one-one-one-one-one. If the pulse is there, than it's going to feel good. It's going to make a mixed meter not feel like a mixed meter, because it's going to be all pulse. 

That's why I love African music so much; it's all pulse. You can feel it in six; you can feel it in two; you can feel it in three. You can also put different groupings; you can do sevens over the top. It all works, as long as the pulse is there.

It seems that you've conceptualized your solo work as an ongoing investigation of your influences.

I think that's a great way to put it: an ongoing investigation of my influences. Not only my immediate musical influences, but my historic musical influences also, and trying to see it from above. Not just the immediacy of it, but the things that are in the periphery also.

I'm kind of going, I wonder what would happen if I did this, and drop this in there. I wonder what the sound of bass flute and bass trumpet is. The tárogató was on the new Dave record also, and it's a Hungarian instrument, It's a wooden soprano, basically. It's like an English horn.

Sometimes, I'll also give myself parameters to work within. I was doing a livestream every Friday all the way through the pandemic. There were nights when I would be like, I'm going to start writing a song at six o'clock because my livestream is at seven. I'm going to get it done within an hour, play it for them on the livestream, and maybe play along.

I tried to bring them into my process of doing what I was doing. It was really fun. It was really, really challenging. And I didn't have any idea what the f— I was doing. 

So, it's really just about exploring and trying things. There's an element of randomness to it, but also an element of focus and "Let's try this and see what happens." I've always been really into pedals, envelope filters and harmonizers. Doing double-horn stuff. I've got this triplicate flute with one mouthpiece. I've got singing bowls and bells and gongs. I'm a total bell freak. Anything I can get my hands on that I can make music from, I'm going to try it.

Jeff Coffin

Jeff Coffin. Photo: Rodrigo Simas

You've mentioned, like, 15 musical traditions and 150 instruments in this interview. Do you ever feel like you're still getting started in learning about all the music the world has to offer?

I do, actually, yeah. I feel more creative than I've ever felt in my life. 

But here's the thing, too: I play for a different reason now than I used to. I think that's partially because I'm able to articulate my own feelings better — not only verbally, but musically. When I was younger, I was playing from a different emotional place. Today, some of the reasons for playing are the same; some are very different. But I feel like I can make decisions based on experience.

I'm still wrong a lot, by the way, which is really interesting to me. I'll listen to a couple of tracks with some people, and I'll think: OK, I know the one that I like. I'll say, "What do you guys think?" and they'll both pick the other one. I'll be like, Oh, OK, great. Let's use that one. Good thing that wasn't up to me.

A year and a half ago, I went down to New Orleans and did a record with [drummer] Johnny Vidacovich, [saxophonist] Tony Dagradi and [drummer] James Singleton [of jazz quartet Astral Project]; Helen Gillet was on the cello on one tune. It's very, very different than this record. It's open and free.

I'm trying to mix it myself, and I've been working on it for a while. I think it sounds pretty good. But I'm not a mixing engineer, and those guys are wizards. So, I'm sitting around with some people, and I'm like, "Look, man, I want your brutally honest feedback. If it doesn't sound good, I want to know, because I'm trying to mix it."

I still second-guess myself on certain things, which I think is great, because I think that's how we learn also. You've got to keep making mistakes, because after a while, you find those successes in there. I think it's Vic Wooten who says something along these lines: "The only reason you don't succeed is because you eventually stop trying."

The History Of Yellowjackets In 10 Songs: A Gateway To The Jazz Fusion Greats

Paul Simon Take 6
Paul Simon with Take 6

Photo: Getty Images for the Recording Academy


8 Highlights From "Homeward Bound: A GRAMMY Salute To The Songs Of Paul Simon": Garth Brooks' & Trisha Yearwood's Charming Duet, Stevie Wonder' & Ledisi's Heartwarming Performance & More

Paul Simon's GRAMMYs tribute included moments of vulnerability, generation-straddling duets, and plenty of other surprises. Here are eight highlights from the magical night. The tribute re-airs on Wednesday, May 31, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

GRAMMYs/Dec 22, 2022 - 03:51 pm

Updated Monday, May 22, to include information about the re-air date for "Homeward Bound: A GRAMMY Salute To The Songs Of Paul Simon."

"Homeward Bound: A GRAMMY Salute To The Songs Of Paul Simon" will re-air on Wednesday, May 31, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network, and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.

Many tribute shows for legacy artists end in a plume of confetti and a feel-good singalong. But not Paul Simon's.

At the end of the songbook-spanning "Homeward Bound: A GRAMMY Tribute To Paul Simon," the only person on the darkened stage was the man of the hour. Sure, the audience had been baby-driven through the Simon and Garfunkel years, into the solo wilderness, through Graceland, and so forth. But all these roads led to darkness.

Because Simon then played the song that he wrote alone, in a bathroom, after JFK was shot.

It doesn't matter that Simon always ends gigs with "The Sound of Silence." After this commensurately cuddly and incisive tribute show, it was bracing to watch him render his entire career an ouroboros. 

That "The Sound of Silence" felt like such a fitting cap to a night of jubilation speaks to Simon's multitudes. The Jonas Brothers coolly gliding through "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," juxtaposed with the ache of Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood's "The Boxer," rubbing up against Dave Matthews getting goofy and kinetic with "You Can Call Me Al," and so on and so forth.

The intoxicating jumble of emotions onstage at "Homeward Bound: A GRAMMY Tribute To Paul Simon" did justice to his songbook's emotional landscape — sometimes smooth, other times turbulent, defined by distance and longing as much as intimacy and fraternity.

Here were eight highlights from the telecast — which will re-air on Wednesday, May 31, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network, and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.

Read More: Watch Jonas Brothers, Brad Paisley, Billy Porter, Shaggy & More Discuss The Legacy And Impact Of Paul Simon Backstage At "Homeward Bound: A GRAMMY Salute To Paul Simon"

Woody Harrelson's Lovably Bumbling Speech

After Brad Paisley's rollicking opening with "Kodachrome," the momentum cheekily ground to a halt as Harrelson dove into a rambling, weirdly moving monologue.

"The songs of Paul Simon really are like old friends," the cowboy-hatted "The Hunger Games" star remarked, interpolating one of his song titles and crooning the opening verse.

Harrelson went on to recount a melancholic story from college, where the spiritually unmoored future star clung to Simon songs like a liferaft. We can all relate, Woody.

Garth Brooks & Trisha Yearwood's Pitch-Perfect "The Boxer"

Brooks has always been one of the most humble megastars in the business, praising his wife Trisha Yearwood — and his forebears — a country mile more than his own. (Speaking to, he described being "married to somebody 10 times more talented than you.")

The crack ensemble could have made "The Boxer" into a spectacle and gotten away with it, but Brooks wisely demurred.

Instead, the pair stripped down the proceedings to guitar and two voices; Brooks provided an aching counterpoint to Yearwood.

Billy Porter's Heart-Rending "Loves Me Like A Rock"

The "Pose" star blew the roof off of Joni Mitchell's MusiCares Person Of The Year gala in 2022 with "Both Sides Now," so it was clear he would bring napalm for a Simon party. 

Given the gospel-ish intro, one would think he was about to destroy the universe with "Bridge Over Troubled Water." 

Instead, he picked a song of tremendous personal significance, "Loves Me Like a Rock," and dedicated it to his mother. The universe: destroyed anyway.

Stevie Wonder & Ledisi's "Bridge Over Troubled Water"

The question remained: who would get dibs on the still-astonishing "Bridge Over Troubled Water"? A song of that magnitude is not to be treated lightly.

So the producers gave it to generational genius Wonder, who'd bridged numberless troubled waters with socially conscious masterpieces like Songs in the Key of Life.

But he wouldn't do it alone: R&B great Ledisi brought the vocal pyrotechnics, imbuing "Bridge Over Troubled Water" with the grandiosity it needed to take off.

Jimmy Cliff & Shaggy Brought Jamaican Vibes With "Mother & Child Reunion"

Simon embraced the sounds of South Africa with his 1986 blockbuster Graceland, yet his island connection is criminally underdiscussed; since the '60s, Jamaican artists have enthusiastically covered his songs.

For instance, it's impossible to imagine a "Mother and Child Reunion" not recorded in Kingston, pulsing with the energy of Simon's surroundings.

Enter genre luminaries Jimmy Cliff and Shaggy, who flipped the tribute into a bona fide reggae party.

Take 6 Dug Deep With "Homeless"

Leave it to the Recording Academy to avoid superficiality in these events: Mitchell's aforementioned MusiCares tribute included beyond-deep cuts like "Urge for Going" and "If." 

Most remember "Homeless" as Ladysmith Black Mambazo unaccompanied vocal cooldown after bangers like "You Can Call Me Al"; eight-time GRAMMY-winning vocal group Take 6 did a radiant, affectionate rendition.

When Simon took the stage at the end of the night, he was visibly blown away. Touchingly, he shouted out his late guitarist, Joseph Shabalala, who founded Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

"Imagine a guy born in Ladysmith, South Africa, [who] writes a song in Zulu and it's sung here by an American group, singing his words in his language," Simon remarked. "It would have brought tears to his eyes."

Angélique Kidjo & Dave Matthews' Love Letter To Africa

Graceland was Simon's commercial zenith, so it was only appropriate that it be the energetic apogee of this tribute show.

Doubly so, that this section be helmed by two African artists: Angélique Kidjo, hailing from Benin, and Dave Matthews, born in Johannesburg.

"Under African Skies," which Simon originally sang with Linda Ronstadt is a natural choice — not only simply as a regional ode, but due to its still-evocative melody and poeticism.

"This is the story of how we begin to remember/ This is the powerful pulsing of love in the vein" drew new power from Kidjo's lungs. 

Afterward, Matthews — a quintessential ham — threw his whole body into Simon's wonderful, strange hit, "You Can Call Me Al."

The Master Himself Took The Stage

With his still-gleaming tenor and still-undersung acoustic guitar mastery, Simon brought the night home with "Graceland," a Rhiannon Giddens-assisted "American Tune" and "The Sound of Silence."

At 81, Simon remains a magnetic performer; even though this is something of a stock sequence for when he plays brief one-off sets, it's simply a pleasure to watch the master work.

Then, the sobering conclusion: "Hello darkness, my old friend," Simon sang, stark and weary. With the world's usual litany of darknesses raging outside, he remains the best shepherd through nightmares we've got.

And as the audience beheld Simon, they seemed to silently say: Talk with us again.

15 Essential Tracks By Paul Simon: In A Burst Of Glory, Sound Becomes A Song

Taylor Swift, Fearless


GRAMMY Rewind: 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards

Taylor's swift rise to the top

GRAMMYs/Oct 23, 2021 - 12:47 am

Music's Biggest Night, the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards, will air live from Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 12 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

In the weeks leading up to the telecast, we will take a stroll down music memory lane with GRAMMY Rewind, highlighting the "big four" categories — Album Of The Year, Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year, and Best New Artist — from past awards shows. In the process, we'll discuss the winners and the nominees who just missed taking home the GRAMMY, while also shining a light on the artists' careers and the eras in which the recordings were born.

Join us as we take an abbreviated journey through the trajectory of pop music from the 1st Annual GRAMMY Awards in 1959 to last year's 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards. Today, the GRAMMY Awards remember Taylor Swift's rise to the top.

52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards
Jan. 31, 2010

Album Of The Year
Winner: Taylor Swift, Fearless
Beyoncé, I Am…Sasha Fierce
Black Eyed Peas, The E.N.D.
Dave Matthews Band, Big Whiskey And The Groogrux King
Lady Gaga, The Fame

Swift became the youngest Album Of The Year winner in GRAMMY history at age 20. How? By being truly fearless. The young country singer/songwriter established a reputation for writing authentically personal songs at an age when most writers are still rhyming June and moon. The results have been both instantaneously likeable and acclaimed. Her competition was not lightweight. Lady Gaga was arguably the most talked about artist of the year, and she would win two GRAMMYs this year on the strength of this album and her hit "Poker Face." The Black Eyed Peas had the anthem of the year with "I Gotta Feeling," and took three GRAMMYs, including two in the Pop Field and one for Best Short Form Music Video for "Boom Boom Pow." Beyoncé made a strong concept album that would ultimately result in five GRAMMYs. She also won one for her version of Etta James' "At Last" from the film Cadillac Records, giving her a total of six for the year, a record for a female artist. Finally, the Dave Matthews Band made a heartfelt song cycle on the passing of band member LeRoi Moore.

Record Of The Year
Winner: Kings Of Leon, "Use Somebody"
Beyoncé, "Halo"
Black Eyed Peas, "I Gotta Feeling"
Lady Gaga, "Poker Face"
Taylor Swift, "You Belong With Me"

The Kings Of Leon broke out in a big way in 2009, using massive hooks, good looks and a great preacher's-kids-gone-rock-and-roll backstory to become the talk of the rock world and capture the Record Of The Year GRAMMY for this Top 10 single. It managed to beat out impressive tracks from four other artists who were all Album Of the Year nominees. The Kings would pick up a second award for Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal, the same award they won the previous year for "Sex On Fire."

Song Of The Year
Winner: Beyoncé, "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)"
Kings Of Leon, "Use Somebody"
Lady Gaga, "Poker Face"
Maxwell, "Pretty Wings"
Taylor Swift, "You Belong With Me"

Several Record Of The Year repeats turned up in the Song Of The Year category, but it was Beyoncé's non-Record Of The Year-nominated "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" that took the prize. Along with Beyoncé, the song was written by Thaddis Harrell, Terius "The Dream" Nash and Christopher "Tricky" Stewart. Record Of The Year winner "Use Somebody" was written by the entire band of Followills: Caleb, Jared, Matthew, and Nathan. Gaga's "Poker Face," for which she teamed with RedOne, made the cut with a strong sonic combination and allusions to poker-faced sexuality. "Pretty Wings," Maxwell would turn in a Marvin Gaye-inspired slow jam that he wrote under the pen name Musze, along with Hod David. Swift and Liz Rose wrote "You Belong With Me," one of eight nominations for Swift this year.

Best New Artist
Winner: Zac Brown Band
Keri Hilson
Silversun Pickups
The Ting Tings

Closing the circle on a country-rich slate of winners, the Zac Brown Band may have been a surprise winner given that Brown was working as a chef not all that long ago. But the earthy cowboys won out over the urban soul of Hilson, who also earned a Best Rap/Sung Collaboration nomination for "Knock You Down," which featured Ne-Yo and Kanye West. The electro-psychedlia duo MGMT was also nominated for a Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals GRAMMY for "Kids." Los Angeles-based indie rockers Silversun Pickups earned their first and only nomination to date, as did the UK power poppers the Ting Tings. 

Tune in to the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards live from Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 12 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

Follow for our inside look at GRAMMY news, blogs, photos, videos, and of course nominees. Stay up to the minute with GRAMMY Live. Check out the GRAMMY legacy with GRAMMY Rewind. Keep track of this year's GRAMMY Week events, and explore this year's GRAMMY Fields. Or check out the collaborations at Re:Generation, presented by Hyundai Veloster. And join the conversation at Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Harry Connick Jr. and friends in Jackson Square, New Orleans

Harry Connick Jr. and friends in NOLA


United We Sing: Cyndi Lauper, Jamie Foxx & More Help Harry Connick Jr. Bring Smiles To Essential Workers

Brad Pitt, Oprah Winfrey, Herbie Hancock, Andra Day, Cyndi Lauper, Little Big Town, Dave Matthews, Tim McGraw, John Fogerty and others also brought gratitude from New York to New Orleans

GRAMMYs/Jun 22, 2020 - 06:02 am

On Sunday, June 21, CBS aired the two-hour "United We Sing: A GRAMMY Salute To The Unsung Heroes" special featuring host Harry Connick Jr., who, along with his filmmaker daughter, Georgia Connick, journeyed via RV from New York to New Orleans to personally thank the essential workers risking their lives to keep us all safe and healthy during the COVID-19 crisis.

The inspiring road trip, which was shot several weeks ago and with a limited crew and social distancing precautions, saw the Connicks visiting truck drivers, teachers, grocery store workers, hospital cleaning staff, firefighters, a trash route worker and other unsung heroes of the coronavirus pandemic.

At each stop, a very special guest, via Zoom, helped Harry offer messages of gratitude to the local heroes, while Georgia filmed the moving interactions. These included Brad Pitt, Oprah Winfrey and Queen Latifah, along with GRAMMY winners Irma Thomas, Jamie FoxxHerbie Hancock, Andra DayCyndi LauperLittle Big Town, Dave MatthewsTim McGraw, John Fogerty and others.

The first stop was to visit Harry's sister Suzanna Jamison, a military doctor currently stationed at Queens Hospital Center in Queens, N.Y. "It's really hard for all the people involved," she said. It was also, understandably so, hard for the siblings to not be able to hug each other. He later visited their father in New Orleans, where they grew up, for another heartwarming family visit.

After narrowly escaping N.Y.C. while driving their massive RV through the narrow streets of Chinatown, Harry navigated them to Chattanooga, Tenn. to thank an adorable trucker couple. McGraw, the first celeb guest of the jaunt, said hi via Zoom. The country icon shared that his dad was a trucker, and he got his country music education at a young age, riding alongside his father with the tape deck going. He then sang an acoustic rendition of his 1999 song "Something Like That" (watch the performance above).

The next stop was to visit teachers at Irvington High School in Newark, N.J. One of the young teachers, Aaysha Notice, shared her passion for showing up for her students, even when they're apart, with innovative ideas like a car parade to celebrate the kids' test scores, driving outside their houses, shouting praises from a safe distance. Their special caller was Queen Latifah—she attended Irvington at the same time her mom taught there. Notice and the other teachers where thrilled to hear support from Latifah, who reminded them: "You are the superstars!"

Explore: 'Black Gold' At 50: How Nina Simone Refracted The Black Experience Through Reinterpreted Songs

The show was interspersed with a stellar selection of musical guests and virtual collabs, the second of which was Trombone Shorty and Little Big Town, with the New Orleans jazz artist playing from his hometown and the country act singing in from Florida and Nashville. They performed a rousing cover of Hank Williams' "Jambalaya (On The Bayou)."

Irma Thomas sings in front of the Mississippi River

Other performances included Thomas singing her GRAMMY-winning 1962 classic "It's Raining" in front of a grey-skied Mississippi river, with Lauper supporting virtually from Los Angeles and Foxx singing a moving rendition of Bill Withers' "Grandma's Hands," dedicated to his beloved grandmother and Withers. Foxx helped thank the cleaning staff at UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Ala.

Hancock and Day, who is playing Billie Holiday in an upcoming biopic, performed Holiday's "God Bless The Child," along with an upright bassist and drummer, each playing from their respective set-ups. Later, Jon Batiste and the Gospel Soul Children served up a beautiful performance of "Amazing Grace."

Fogerty and his family, calling in from Los Angeles, performed an electric rendition of his "Proud Mary," with help from Rockin' Dopsie Jr. playing the zydeco in front of the river that inspired the Creedance Clearwater Revival hit. Also while in NOLA, Connick joined an amazing, socially distanced second line, featuring the Bourbon Street Brass Band, the Lady Buckjumpers and the Wild Magnolias, who delivered a brass rendition of "America The Beautiful."

Read: Marching Six Feet Apart: How High School Marching Bands Are Coping With The Pandemic

One of the most moving musical moments came from the tribute to the late jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis, who died from COVID-19. Three of his sons honored the NOLA legend with the hymn "How Great Thou Art," along with Connick singing on a piano. They performed outside of the city's Ellis Marsalis Center For Music, built after hurricane Katrina to serves as a music education and enrichment space for kids, a recording studio, performance hall and more. One of the eldest sons, Branford Marsalis, returned to the show later to perform Dave Matthews Band's "Mercy" with Dave himself.

R.I.P.: Pianist And New Orleans Jazz Staple Ellis Marsalis Dies At 85

While visiting New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell at City Hall, Lou Hill of the Recording Academy stopped by to share the Academy would be joining Connick in making donations to the Marsalis Center and New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, another important local music org highlighted during the special. During the show, viewers where encouraged to learn more and donate what they could to the non-profits, as well as MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund and two food-focused charities, No Kid Hungry and the Conscious Alliance, a coalition of artists dedicated keeping their communities fed.

Read: My Mind: The 'Panther' Theme Song Turns 25

Other stops and celebrity Zoom cameos included a visit to Oprah's Boys and Girls Club in Kosciusko, Miss., where the employees are feeding kids who would otherwise not eat with school out, with around 2000 meals a day! Winfrey called in to thank them personally; she helped open in that Boys and Girls Club in her hometown back in 2006. At a Kroger's grocery store in Knoxville, Tenn., Connick called on Renée Zellweger to praise two lovely employees there. Sandra Bullock zoomed with transit supervisor Joy Palmer, who recently lost her husband to COVID-19.

A gospel choir sings with Connick in Jefferson Square, New Orleans

Brad Pitt made two cameos, first offering playful jokes and heartfelt thanks to the lovely Darnell, the supervisor of trash pickup route, and later to help Connick close the show. The final number saw Connick singing "Stars Still Shine" on a piano in NOLA's Jackson Square, with the support of a gospel choir and orchestra. The new song, dedicated to all their new friends on the front lines, and the many more they didn't have time to meet, is available to download now with all proceeds going to the Marsalis Center.

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