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Grey Street by Dave Matthews Band

Album: Busted StuffReleased: 2002
  • This is about the struggle to get out and survive. You're almost out of the white, but still in the black - mixed together they make gray.
  • This was one of the songs from the "Lillywhite Sessions," an album Matthews recorded with producer Steve Lillywhite in 2000, but decided not to release. The songs were leaked on the Internet and widely circulated. In 2002, after putting out the album Everyday, which was produced by Glen Ballard, Matthews released most of the Lillywhite songs on Busted Stuff.
  • The color is spelled "Gray." It is likely that this is about Julia Grey, Matthews' old girlfriend who followed him to the US from South Africa. She also inspired Matthew's songs "I'll back you up", "Halloween" and possibly "Recently."You can think of this song as the 3rd installment after "I'll back you up" and "Halloween." He's in love with a girl, proposes to her ("I'll back you up"), she turns him down every time he proposes, he gets mad ("Halloween"), but still tries to keep her ("Grey Street").
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Comments: 32

There is a version on Live Trax Vol. 16 that has completely different lyrics than any I've ever heard...totally different story.James - Gpt
This Dave Matthews Band song is inspired by the life of the poet Anne Sexton, who suffered from depression and took her own life in 1974.Nic - Nyc
I think the first line: "Look how she listens, says nothing about what she thinks" sets a tone for this song. My interpretation of this song that it is about a depressed woman who does not have the ability to break out of it, but does not have the support because she was never open. She doesn't have confidence in herself and to get attention in the wrong ways "there's a loneliness inside her and she will do anything to fill it in" "wearing colors bold and bright" she doesn't know where to turn for help. I think he leaves this song open-ended where who knows what happened to her, but she has given up. It seems though that Dave paints a picture of a girl that still has will and I don't think it is about suicide.Aaron - Burlington, Ma
I don't know specifically what Dave Matthews or anybody else had in mind, but I do know this. Grey Street is one of the most synonymous streets in Melbourne Australia. It's claim to fame, although once a symbol of wealth and affluency, now is a hotbed of prostitution. The biproducts of above said activity are homelessness and heavy drug abuse. It seems quite possible that the prayers everynight that are never answered are a solution out of this lifestyle that can feel hopeless I would imagine for which she feels like she has to take into her own hands. From case studies that I have seen it is a situation where you become one with the streets and the lifestyle becomes a normal, a mental track. The hopelessness that is displayed in this song is very consistent with these studies. I don't rule out a metaphoric resemblence to CS Lewis as mentioned earlier. Also, it is definately not out of the question that Dave used some embellished imagery that is a staple in alot of his music.I think that this brings in what Andrea in Boston observed as far as what Grey represents in alot of poetry. Also she mentions from the song about Grey Street being the "end of the world." There also could be something to Dave pulling this in as his ex (Gray). This would definately not be the first time that an artist personalised an artistic spector. A great song, with alot of latent sadness. Hope I was close here.Tom - Fort Wayne, In
Jackie- fyi and for anyone else who thinks that..depression is not something for which "It's up to you as an individual to take charge of your life and to stop living in depression" and depressed people aren't just waiting around for a "higher power" to lift them out if it. depression is a DISEASE in which there is a chemical imbalance in your brain, it's not just people going around feeling sad and sorry for themselves. chemical imbalances in the brain are hardly within ones control, therefore someone with this problem can hardly be asked to "do it yourself" and "stop living in depression". thanks for being so open and understanding to people not exactly like you!! :)Sydney - St. Louis, Mo
After having recently read C.S. Lewis' "The Great Divorce" and then randomly listening to this song, I wonder if Dave wrote it with the Grey Town in mind. There are a lot of parallels between Grey Street's lyrics and Lewis' representation of hell.Joseph - Lexington, Ky
I think it goes back to Dave's whole "live life to it's fullest" mentality. Like in "Pig" and don't burn the day away. It's up to you as an individual to take charge of your life and to stop living in depression and hoping that God or some higher power will lift you out of your situation. In essence you need to do it yourself. Reading the lyrics it almost seems like she gets to the point of suicide. There's "cold blue ice in her heart" - depression. "Red blood bleeding from her now" - suicide???Jackie - Kitchener, On
I don't know if anyone here has ever read the short story "Eveline" by James Joyce but the lyrics in the song match up almost perfectly with the story.Geoff - Oshkosh, Wi
The girl is a confused sensitive, yet self absorbed individual. The "crazy man" loves her and is trying to communicate wither yet she is shutting him off and telling everyone he's mad.Joe - Hobart, Australia
It's about a depressed girl that can't love others because she fails to love herself. Colors mix together to gray...depressed. Sometime after Busted Stuff came out, I picked my girlfriend up at her office and she handed me the printed lyrics and told me how much she identified with them...depressed girl....Sellis - Wdc, United States
Dave Matthews has said that the song Grey Street, from the album Busted Stuff (2002), is inspired by Sexton.Edward - Los Angeles, Ca
I believe this song is about a girl, possibly Julia Gray, that felt she knew she was trapped in a loveless relationship. She is pressured either by her friends, or the guy, to stay in it. She doesnt have the boldness (brightness) too change her ways. So she just lets it continue. Everything eventually becomes a blurr.. _grey). At night when she goes to sleep she goes to her own special place in her heart, which Dave calls Grey Street. At this point in her day, all her emotions mix together, to grey. She is trapped in this state, (feels like kicking out all the windfows, and setting fire...)- Anyway, great song- best version is live at the Gorge in 2000. -ThanksPat - East Hanover, Nj
Robyn in Denver, Co.: I always heard Dave's sister was killed by her husband.Ash - Charleston, Wv
I think this song is great. I agree it appears to be about depression. A few people mentioned that the Lillywhite Sessions version is better/different. Where can I find this?Superdave - Simi Valley, Ca
I wouldn;t say this song is about a woman who wants to have a child. The line about the emptiness inside her is probably about being depressed or lonely, more of FEELING empty inside not actually being empty inside. good tune, play at school for my friends all the time, they love it....they don;t know what the DMB is tho hahaMackenzie - Blessington, Canada
While Grey is his ex-girlfriends last name, you have to remember that Dave is from South Africa. If you asked him to spell "color", he'd probably write "colour" (The British spelling). Grey Street had 4 verses until it was cut for the album Busted Stuff (which many believe is a poorer version). Grey Street has become VERY common in modern DMB setlists. Some cool lyrics can be found during the 2000 summer tour.Gabe - New York, Ny
It seems obvious to me that this song is about a woman who wants to have a child, but can't get pregnant. Think about it:

"There's an emptiness inside her, and she'd do anything to fill it in. Though it's red blood bleeding from her now, it feels like cold blue ice in her heart."

Anyone agree?
Alan - Columbus, Oh
I am pretty sure that this song is actually about his sister, who was killed as a result of her stand against the government while Apartheid was still prevalent in South Africa. She was very politically outspoken, and it is rumoured that this was how she died. In context, I think this makes sense, how she knew what was going on was wrong, and she wanted to take a stand, but knew that she would suffer as a result. Think about it...Robyn - Denver, Co
i love the beat of this song.Izzie - Lala, Hi
Few people know this, but in addition to growing up in South Africa and Virgina, Dave Matthews lived in England. Seeing as the "grey" is more commonly spelled there, that's just the way the guy spells it. I don't think it's about Julia either.Jesse - Bridgeport, Ct
The Lillywhite Version is immensely better than Busted Stuff. Call me crazy, but Carter's drumming on Lillywhite is far superior to Busted Stuff Carter. The lyrics are better too. According to antsmarching.org, great site by the way, this song is about someone trapped in a loveless relationship, similar to Pearl Jam's "Better Man."John - Manhattan, Ny
I cannot remember who told me, but I believe the song may be about the poet and a playwright Anne Sexton. She was talented lady, however she struggled with depression severly; so much so that she took her own life. Let me back up a bit, I don't think the song is soley about Anne, but I believe there is a reference to her life. Ironically Anne's given name was Anne Gray Harvey. I realize the "grey" vs. "gray" is an issue for some, but hey it's Dave and we all know he can play on words with the best of 'em!Steph - Lincoln, Ne
I agree with Bruce. I think this song is about depression and the facade people put up to hide it.Lark - Bowie, Md
its another song about a sad girl

its about her struggle
who hasnt felt like "kicking out all the windows and setting fire to this life" when down?
Kate - San Diego, United States
I always spell the color as 'grey'.Jeremy - Sioux Falls, Sd
I don't think this song is about an ex-girlfriend. I just don't see how the lyrics make sense in that context. I have always liked this song (the Busted Stuff version, I've not heard the earlier version), but it only recently hit me what it is about. Now it seems obvious to me. The song is about depression. As someone who has depression, I can relate frighteningly well to the character in this song, She is in the midst of an acute episode of depression and considering suicide. In fact, she may have attempted suicide already with the "red blood bleeding from her now". "Grey" describes the state of the depressed mind perfectly. When I am depressed I often feel like I'm in a fog. The way Dave juxtaposes the red blood and the blue ice, but everything mixes together to grey is brilliant. Also, the man outside her door wants to help her out of the depression, but she refuses. The hardest thing for a depressed person to do is ask for help, so this again captures the illness of depression perfectly. I showed these lyrics to my therapist and she agreed that it is totally about depression. In a funny way, I find this song quite comforting.Bruce - Toronto, Canada
This song is not about julia. It is about a woman who is facing events in her past and struggling to move on with her life. The lyrics have gone through many evolutions since the song was first played in 2000. The early versions are quite beautiful, I think the Busted Stuff lyrics are a little trite though.Ben - Harpers Ferry, Wv
Actually for most writers or poets, the choice of "gray" or "grey" is mainly for the connotation rather than the actual formal meaning. Gray tends to just be associated with the color while grey (most times) has a more somber or experienced association for people. Thus the usage of this word in this song is a concious decision by the writer in order to bring more of a co-mingling of both the meaning of grey (the color, "the colors mix together to grey") as well as the idea that the girl has had left the state of innocence and actually lives upon "Grey Street" itself, "at the end of the world". Grey is more appropriate for the subject matter. Oh what one little letter replacing another can do!Andrea - Boston, Ma
I don't think this song is about Julia Grey. At the time that the Lillywhite Sessions were recorded Dave and his wife Ashley were not married but they had been together for years.

I think the song can be interpreted quite literally. The subject is unhappy with her life, perhaps with a relationship she's in, but has trouble changing things for the better.
Dan - Port Jervis, Ny
Both the Lillywhite and Busted Stuff versions are incredible...an upbeat melody linked with a haunting and powerful lyric. Great song.Justin - Felts Mills, Ny
Julia Grey spelled her name with an "e", as is says is "Music For the People" and "Step Into the Light", two books on the band.Tommy - Southboro, Ma
The color can be spelled either "gray" or "grey". grey is more widely used in Britain and in English literature. This is not challenging the meaning, but just to clarify the spelling.Barton Willis - Florence, Nj
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