The Dreaming Tree

Album: Before These Crowded Streets (1998)


  • Dave Matthews told Allstar magazine how the song came together: "Stefan [Lessard, bassist] had the initial idea for the music and then he and I got together and finished it. I love the little story in there. I've never written stories like that. And I like the image of the dreaming tree. There are these two characters, the woman and an old man. I think I identify more with the woman than the old man. I guess the hook is that the dreaming tree has died - it's some sort of memory of lost hope of the two characters in the song, then there's a voice in the middle that's directed at God, but you don't really know that, so it leaves you saying, 'Who the hell is he talking to?' It's almost like three separate stories."
  • Revisiting the album for its 20th anniversary, producer Steve Lillywhite was struck by this track and considers it a coming-of-age of sorts for Matthews. He told the Records & Riffs podcast: "I went, 'Oh, my God, this is maybe the last song he wrote of a certain style,' because when he says, 'the dreaming tree has died,' all of his songs up to that point, for me, had almost been this sort of such an innocent place he came from, like a little boy. These songs were written as a stream of consciousness by a little boy, and I think – maybe I'm wrong- but when I think 'the dreaming tree has died,' I think he used the dreaming tree to write his lyrics but it's gone now … because once you lose your innocence you can never get it back again."
  • That album takes its name from the lyric, "Long before these crowded streets here stood my dreaming tree."
  • In 2011, Matthews teamed with winemaker Sean McKenzie to release Dreaming Tree Wines, named after the song.


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