Dave Matthews Band: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Facts
Eligible Since: 2019
Finalist: Once (2020)
Grammy Awards/Nominations: 1/14
Career Top 40 Hits: 4
Essential Tracks: What Would You Say, Ants Marching, The Best of What’s Around, Crash Into Me, Two Step, #41, Tripping Billies, Stay (Wasting Time), Crush, Grey Street, Funny The Way It Is
Essential Albums: Under the Table and Dreaming (1994), Crash (1996), Before These Crowded Streets (1998), The Lillywhite Sessions (officially unreleased, 2000), The Central Park Concert (2003), Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King (2009)
Like Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Rush, and numerous other rock bands before them who sold millions of records but were never critical darlings, the Dave Matthews Band find themselves having to wait for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.
Those other bands eventually were enshrined, and DMB will be inducted as well. The question is, how long will it take? And why hasn’t it happened yet?
Let’s try to figure out when the Dave Matthews Band could earn Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.
Dave Matthews Band’s Rock Hall Credentials
The Dave Matthews Band exploded in the mid-90s with “What Would You Say,” “Ants Marching,” and “Satellite,” three big hits on MTV and rock radio, from their stellar debut Under the Table and Dreaming.
DMB were always a force on the radio, MTV, and VH1 with hits like “Crash Into Me,” “Too Much,” “Don’t Drink the Water,” and “Stay (Wasting Time),” all of which cemented the group’s place as one of the most successful rock bands of the late ‘90s.
The group’s lineup included one of the most talented drummers in music, Carter Beauford, as well as a strong bassist, Stefan Lessard, with Dave Matthews playing acoustic guitar and writing most of the songs.
Besides the strong musicianship of those three, what really separated DMB from the pack was having violinist Boyd Tinsley and sax player Leroi Moore. Those two gave the band a signature sound unlike anything else that was popular at the time.
Their melting pot of musical sounds and interracial lineup made the Dave Matthews Band unique in the world of rock music, and college-age fans ate up what they were offering. Though they never scored massive hits on the pop charts, their devoted fan base help them earn several #1 albums in a row, a streak that remains ongoing.
Matthews songs were catchy and generally had an optimistic attitude that encouraged celebrating life and living for the moment: “Eat drink and be merry / For tomorrow we’ll die,” “Turns out not where, but who you’re with that really matters,” “Celebrate we will / Because life is short but sweet for certain,” “I can’t believe that we would lie in our graves / Wondering if we had spent our living days well.”
Some critics dismissed those lyrics as meaningless fluff, but they proved inspirational for millions of fans. And the group delved into serious topics more frequently that some people realize. “Don’t Drink the Water” was a searing criticism of the historical treatment of Native Americans in this country. “American Baby” was a song about finding hope in the immediate aftermath of George W. Bush’s re-election. More than one of Dave’s songs address the tricky political history and social tensions of his native South Africa.
“Crush” is a love song that changes the formula a bit with its quiet, downtempo vibe. It’s become the DMB song that I play for people who say they don’t like the Dave Matthews Band. Many are surprised to hear a track from this group that seems more sophisticated and polished.
Where the group really shined was in the live setting. The group became known for its improvisation and extended jams, which sometimes featured violin and sax solos that were several minutes long. Every show featured a completely different set list, which was an invitation for hardcore fans to attend as many shows as possible every summer.
Fans exchanged live bootlegs with DMB’s blessing, and the group’s annual tours were among the most lucrative concert tours in music for many years in a row. I’ve been to 21 DMB shows over the years, and they rarely disappoint. The five-minute violin solo I witnessed on “Lie in Our Graves” at Star Lake Amphitheater in Pittsburgh in the late ’90s still remains one of the most incredible concert moments of my life.
Though they’ve endured some lineup changes over the years, most notably after Moore’s accidental death in 2008, the Dave Matthews Band has kept going strong. Their longevity gives a major boost to their Rock Hall candidacy.
The Case Against DMB
Rock critics were never huge fans of the group or its singer. Many have criticized Dave’s guitar playing, calling him the weakest musician in the band. Many have criticized his lyrics, which criticism ranging from too boring (“Where Are You Going”) to too creepy (“Crash Into Me.”)
Tinsley was booted from the band in 2018 after accusations of sexual misconduct, which was distressing to many fans. But that isn’t likely to affect DMB’s Rock Hall chances sine he was only one member of a very large group.
Critics could also point out that the band’s most recent albums aren’t as engaging as their earlier work. But the fact that they’re still going strong after 30 years is definitely a positive overall.
DMB fans earned a reputation over the years for being the college “bro” type. I have personally known thoughtful music fans who don’t even give Matthews’ music a chance because they’re so turned off by the fan base. That’s unfortunate, but not surprising. That attitude could extend to some Rock Hall voters. Hopefully somebody on the nominating committee will step up and remind the other voters to focus strictly on the music when considering the band’s candidacy.
Now that the Rock Hall has embraced other rock acts who weren’t critical favorites, it’s hard to see justification for keeping DMB out. Enduring popularity has become part of the voting criteria, which only bolsters Dave’s case further.
The Verdict: Will Dave Matthews Band Get Inducted Into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
Unlike many of the other acts featured in this column, the Dave Matthews Band has already been a finalist for induction. That came in 2020, when the group was passed over in favor of the Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Notorious B.I.G., Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, and T. Rex.
In 2021, DMB weren’t on the shortlist. But they can’t be overlooked for much longer. Their lengthy career, commercial success, and status as respected road warriors will be more than enough to get them enough votes.
It’s hard to imagine any scenario in which the band does not get inducted. Best case scenario, it will happen before 2025. Worst case, it drags on for a while and DMB have to wait more than a decade, like the Doobie Brothers. But they’ll get in at some point.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Dave Matthews Band
Odds of Getting Inducted Next Year: 25%
Odds of Getting Inducted in the Next Five Years: 50%
Odds of Getting Inducted Eventually: 100%
Do you think the Dave Matthews Band will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame someday? Leave a comment and let us know!