Just Like Me
by DMC (featuring Sarah McLachlan)

Album: Checks Thugs And Rock N Roll (2006)

Songfacts®:

  • DMC is Darryl McDaniels of Run-DMC. This song tells his origin story: He was given up for adoption when he was born, and remained in the hospital for a month before a couple took him in. They raised him in a stable environment, leading to college (St. John's University) and a groundbreaking career in rap. "If nothing is wrong then something is right," he raps in the song.

    DMC didn't find out he was adopted until 2000 when he decided to write a book telling his life story. He also learned there are many others like him who were adopted.
  • Sarah McLachlan sings the hook, which is the chorus of the 1974 Harry Chapin hit "Cat's In The Cradle." Growing up in New York, DMC listened to freeform FM radio, which played a wide variety of music. Along with soul like James Brown and Sly & the Family Stone, he also heard artists like Chapin and Jim Croce. "Cat's In The Cradle" was one of his favorites.
  • DMC went through a crippling depression before he wrote this song. In 1993, Run-DMC released the successful album Down With The King, but over the next few years DMC fell further into a funk even though his career was doing well. He was an alcoholic, and his relationship with his musical partner Run was strained.

    In 1996, he was in the back of a cab when the driver put on music for him: the New York hip-hop station Hot 97. That was the last thing DMC wanted to hear, so he told him to change the station. The driver put on a Lite FM station, and a Sarah McLachlan song was playing (McDaniels recalls it being "Angel," but that song had not been released yet). "Something in that song said to me, 'D, I know you're going through a lot, but it's good to be alive,'" he said.

    For the next year, DMC listened to nothing but Sarah McLachlan records. His depression got so bad that on a 1997 tour of Japan, he thought about suicide, even considering how he would do it. That year, his manager dragged him to Clive Davis' Grammy party so he could meet McLachlan. When he approached her, McLachlan hit a B-boy stance and started rhyming his songs at him ("It's tricky to rock a rhyme...").

    "Ms. McLachlan, every day I listen to your music," he told her. "I don't leave my house without it, I travel with it.'" She replied, "Thank you for telling me that Darryl, because that's what music is supposed to do."

    DMC looked to self-help books for solutions to his depression. He read Deepak Chopra, but that made it worse: He figured he had accomplished everything he had to, so he might as well end his life. Then he realized that while the Run-DMC story is well told, his personal tale was not, to he decided to tell it. In 2000 he called his mother to get some data: his birth weight, time of birth, and hospital where he was born. His father called back with some startling news: they adopted him when he was a month old.

    "There was a missing piece to my identity," DMC said. "That piece filled my void." Realizing a lot of people have probably gone through something like this, he decided to make a record. Years later, he contacted McLachlan and they recorded "Just Like Me" at her home studio in Vancouver. (Quotes are from DMC's talk at The Moth and from his interview with Q radio.)
  • DMC didn't find out until he started working with her, but Sarah McLachlan was also adopted. She was about 9 years old when she found out, and for her, it wasn't traumatic at all. She was thankful that her birth mother gave her up to the family that raised her.
  • Around the time this song was released, DMC teamed up with the casting director Sheila Jaffe to start The Felix Organization, which runs a camp in Putnam Valley, New York for kids in the foster care system.
  • In 2008, this appeared on McLachlan's album Rarities, B-Sides and Other Stuff Volume 2.

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