The Last Stop

Album: Before These Crowded Streets (1998)

Songfacts®:

  • This song is about inhumanity, particularly in the context of war. The song contradicts the belief that war is necessary to eventually reach peace, as displayed in the lyrics "War, the only way to peace, well I don't fall for that." The song also talks about the way people kill others without even thinking about it, almost in a robotic fashion: "How is this hate so deep, lead us all so blindly killing killing, fools we are." The song also discusses the US government's lies concerning war and their idea of supremacy in the world: "Right is wrong now, shut up you big lie." The last topic discussed is the pain caused by war, especially towards the families of those killed: "Mother's cry is hate so deep, must a baby's bones this hungry fire feed." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Liz - Ridgewood, NJ
  • Jerusalem was "The last stop" on a migration for both Jews and Muslims. In the first stanza Matthews tells us that the setting is at night and a fire is from the east. In this context, that could be The East Bank at Gaza, a place where Islamic people live and are constantly under "fire" militaristically and ideologically from the Israeli government.
    The next two stanzas are the voice of a humanistic person: "Fools are we, if hate's the gate to peace." He could be questioning the US's backing of Israel
    . The next stanza's voice is of a Muslim who cries against the attacks: "War, the only way to peace?" He later says, "Go away and dream, go away believe that we (Muslims) are the chosen ones," as Jews are often referred to as the chosen people.
    Then a Jewish voice makes a rebuttal: "Oh no gracious heathen god, blooded on the cross are sins are washed enough," meaning that the Jews have paid their debts through persecution and deserve the "last stop."
    Then the Muslim again: "Right is wrong now shut up the big lie." The big lie being that they (Palestinians) are getting equality. Then it repeats an earlier argument.
    The next line seems to be the Jewish voice towards the Christian (the US): "We hope to break it down, so it's not so black and white." This is a half-veiled attempt at peace, followed by, "It's black and white" saying that maybe they can't change.
    The last stanza goes back to the Islamic view, yet there is still the hope to "Break it down." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    nelson - left field
  • Around the time he was writing this song, Matthews became more interested in Eastern music, particularly from Pakistan and North Africa. He explained to journalist Michael D. Vogel: "I have been moving towards this type of music because the sounds of their scales tend to be more desperate in nature. Eastern prayer, for example, allows for a certain level of loose improvisation, which can be very overwhelming. Combined with a certain element - maybe because it is somewhat foreign - that ultimately makes the music inherently holy. Almost as if the scales themselves hit you right in the center of your soul."

    He went on to explain the musical and lyrical inspiration behind the track: "So, I thought, to turn something like that into a rock song, with a heavy Zeppelinesque style, would be quite a challenge. Musically, the song has a much simpler guitar sound than some of our other songs, almost like a stereotyped movie soundtrack. We wanted to make it rock, but we also wanted to make it serene. Lyrically, the song describes a level of frustration with how easily we blindly follow our leader's opinions without making sure we have a complete understanding of the big picture. The hook of the song 'Black And White' is somewhat of the idea behind it as well. Life is really a lot more complicated than simply seeing it as black and white. I personally think it is dangerous to easily dismiss [societies] as bad, yet this type of bigotry slowly creeps into our culture. Ultimately, we tend to judge others based on the way we view the leaders that represent them. As a result, we are teaching each other how to hate. It is this type of stereotype that gets ingrained within our society in a self-perpetuating cycle."
  • This features Bela Fleck of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones on banjo.

Comments: 15

  • Kevin from Blacksburg, VaPeople hear what they want to hear in song lyrics. The "East Bank?" I think you mean the West Bank. The "East Bank," is the country of Jordan, not Israel or Palestine. The context of when this song was written, 1996-1998, should be considered. Israel and Palestine were months away from the Oslo Accord, so peace was in the works. However, if you look at the major military conflicts at this time, they weren't in Israel. They were in Eastern Europe and other parts of the Middle East. The first Chechen War had just come to a close, while the Yugoslav Wars were just starting. Communism had amalgamated Yugoslavia into a single state. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the Greek Orthodox church began a humanitarian mission in the area. Turkish militant Islamicists countered this by trying to form a Caliphate. A classic East vs the West clash began brewing. As factions began to collide, politicians began drawing lines on the map. All the major leaders involved believed war was the only way to obtain peace. Talking peace wasn't even on the table. It started in Croatia. Then Kosovo, Albania, Bosnia (which had just suffered the Bosnian Genocide) and Serbia began wiping each other out. It was really bad. So bad, NATO and the Clinton Administration got involved by suppling Kosovo with whatever they needed. Bill Clinton, at the urging of Hillary (she spoke about this in 1999 while positioning herself for the senate), ordered the NATO bombings of Yugoslavia in 1995 (Operation Deliberate Force). This pitted Serbia against the west, especially against the US. So much so, the Serbians were burning effigies of Bill and Hillary Clinton in the streets. This became the most devastating and deadliest event in Eastern Europe since WW2. The only other major military conflict at the time was the Iraqi Kurdish Civil War. In September of 1996, to stop Iraqi forces from regaining the territory held by the Kurds, the Clinton Administration launched Operation Desert Strike. A year later, Turkey waged a brutal war on the Kurds. Turkey proclaimed that they had to force a ceasefire through war in order to secure peace. These were the two major events that impacted American culture at the time. Keep in mind that Dave Matthews' generation, Gen X, were quite anti-government & anti-war. This is reflected in punk, the stoner subculture, the Grunge movement and cultural libertarianism.
  • Aaron from Burlington, MaThis song is directed towards the Aparthied in my humble opinion. The line: "You're righteous, so righteous, SO RIGHTEOUS" directed towards those whom think they are better than someone based on skin color. "Go ahead believe that you are the chosen one." again same audience. "And how is this Hate so deep? Lead us all so blindly, killing, killing" referencing the massacres, asking how someone could senselessly hate someone to that extent? The chorus or closest thing to a chorus definitely gives it away; but sends a powerful message: "Here there's always blowing up. And I hope that we can break it down. So it's not so black and white oh...This is the last stop." Referencing the senseless mass murders. Asking the ignorant to breakdown the color barrier, Hoping the country will see people as people and stating that this has gone on to long. Dave spent a good amount of his childhood in South Africa during the Apartheid. Mentioning in 60 minutes interview it would have been impossible not to get inspiration from what he saw and heard.. Anyway you split it, Dave is an amazing lyricists and has a great ability to spin words causing various interpretations of a song. None of which in my opinion are wrong.
  • Matthew from Milford, MaOh, yeah, I used to see this song as basically Moses yelling at the Pharoh. To be honest, it was kind of funny visualizing Moses ranting and raving at the Pharoh, but it isn't really in his character... It wasn't until much later that I realized that it was referring to the modern-day conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians (Jews and Arabs.) And, it certainly does make much more sense in the context of this conflict in the Middle East, with both groups fighting for the land that they consider to be their home. The violence is certainly senseless, and it clearly causes a lot of distress to the women losing their babies, but that doesn't stop the Jews and Arabs from continuing to try to blow each other to kingdom come. As for the "chosen one" bit... perhaps the Arabs are trying to insult the Jews? The "righteous, so righteous, you're always so righteous" part could be the Jews accusing the Arabs of hypocrisy.
  • Matthew from Milford, MaAnyways, yeah, this is one of my all-time favorite songs; since I don't like playing favorites (in a specific sense,) the fact that this song was once my #1 favorite is saying something! It's still probably in my Top 5 or Top 3... YOU ROCK, DAVE!!! Well, okay, I'm not so hot about his newer stuff, but he's still undeniably one of my favorite artists!
  • Matthew from Milford, MaI really do wonder what the "seven stones" line at the beginning of the song is supposed to mean. I always end up thinking of the Chaos Emeralds from the Sonic the Hedgehog series, but there's no way that those could be what Dave Matthews is referring to. Besides, if the Chaos Emeralds could be placed into this context, so could any other set of seven magical/mystical/supernatural/holy/cursed stones or jewels. Since the song is about the conflict between the Jews of Israel and the Arabs of Palestine, the seven stones are most likely from a Jewish, Muslim, or Arabian legend. Perhaps it was the box of stones that Ali Baba had to pick from in order to claim a hoard of treasure in the Arabian Nights, but there are plenty of other possibilities... I'd really appreciate it if somebody could figure out what the "seven stones" are.
  • Matthew from Milford, MaThis was my favorite song for a long time, for many of the reasons described below. It's recently been upstaged by Boston's "Higher Power", but it is still one of my all-time favorite songs. I'd love to see this more often... EBA, anyone?
  • Matthew from Milford, MaIt says, "Go ahead, believe that you are the chosen one." In other words, Matthews is saying that terrorists and soldiers can continue living in their sententious dreams, but they shouldn't be surprised if they wake up one day to find themselves in hell!
  • Ash from Charleston, WvIs anyone out there familiar with Leonard Bernstein's piece "Chichester Psalms"? If so, have you ever thought about the similarities between that and this song? I'm referring to how they both have their war sections, filled with terrible, smoke-filled images of death and destruction, interspersed with and/or followed by a brief peaceful passage replete with lovely and soothing music of hope; a hope that I'm sure most all of us cling to even as the wars wage and "the nations rage."
  • Tyler from Jackson, Ms"You nail good to a tree and then say 'Forgive me, forgive me." I agree, this is obviously refering to the crucifiction of Jesus and sinners.
  • Nelson from Left FieldThis song is obviously about Jerusalem, "the last stop" on a migragtion for both Jews and Muslims. In the first stanza Dave tells us that the setting is at night and a fire is from the east. One could ponder what the east represents for a while, but since we're dealing with Jews and Muslims I believe that it is The East Bank at Gaza, a place where Islamic people live and are constantly under "fire" militaristically and idealogically from the Israeli gov't.
    The next two stanzas voice is dave, or a humanistic person, "fools are we, if hate's the gate to peace". Maybe he is questioning the US's backing of Israel via weapons caches.
    The next stanza's voice is of a Muslam who cries against the attacks,"War, the only way to peace?". He later says, "go away and dream, go away believe that we(Muslims) are the chosen ones", as Jews are often reffered to as the chosen people.
    Then a Jewish voice makes a rebuttal, "Oh no gracious heathen god, Blooded on the cross are sins are washed enough". Meaning that the Jews have payed their debts through persecution and deserve the "last stop".
    Then the Muslam again, "right is wrong now shut up the big lie". The big lie being that they(Palestinians) are getting equality? Then it repeats an earlier argument.
    The next line seems to be the Jewish voice towards the christian(the U.S). "we hope to break it down, so its not so black and white" a half veiled attempt at peace, followed by "its black and white" saying that maybe they can't change. Then saying, your right so righteous. an apology for killing christ.
    The last stanza goes back to the Islamic view, yet there is still the hope to "break it down".
  • Ash from Charleston, WvI'd like to sing parts of this song to George W. Bush's face: "War. The only way to peace? Well, I don't fall for that. And you're righteous, so righteous, you're always so right. Go ahead and dream. Go ahead, believe that we are the chosen ones."
  • Kelly from Los Angeles, CaThis song is amazing, and I also wonder why it's not referenced more in regards to war. The music and lyrics are haunting. Love it!
  • Grey from Knoxville, TnDave is a very under-appreciated lyricist...I personally think he writes some of the best lyrics out there and isn't afraid to touch any topic..subtly or not
  • Ben from Harpers Ferry, WvI'm surprised that this song is not used more often in protests against war. Jo has a point, you can draw close associations with the crucifixion and this song. I believe it is a condemnation of the hypocrisy of religious leaders who use their beliefs to justify wars and killing. More people should listen to this song.
  • Jo from Melbourne, AustraliaTrue, it's a modern-day reference, but its basically the bible crucifiction story. It's easy to hear this if you listen to the lyrics closely.
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