King Without A Crown

Album: Shake off the Dust... Arise (2004)
Charted: 28
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  • The first single and breakout hit for Matisyahu, he tells us that it was written in a loose, free association style, which often allows him to come up with deeper, more meaningful lyrics. It is a very spiritual song about the difficulty and frustration of getting a personal idea heard by others. At the time, Matisyahu was a Hasidic Jew with a full beard and yarmulke. In 2011, he shaved the beard, which he had been growing for 10 years.
  • Matisyahu began writing this song about six months before he made his religious transformation. He was a student at the New School in New York City, and through friends, he met a producer in Philadelphia who had a home studio where Matisyahu (Matthew Miller at the time) recorded the track for this song. He told Songfacts: "Flash forward about, I don't know, six months, a year, and I'd become very religious - moved to Brooklyn to an ultra-orthodox neighborhood, no longer listening to music, watching TV, not really seeing any of my friends. I'm just spending pretty much all day with a group of men in a Yeshiva in Brooklyn. Completely changed my life 180 degrees.

    But I had, still, this burning desire to do music. So on Fridays we used to get permission to leave the Yeshiva to basically prosthelytize to other Jews in the city. You know, give them candles. I got permission to go to Philadelphia for Shabbat and be back on Sunday to record the song that I wanted to do.

    So I went to this producer's house, and I sang him this melody. (Sings melody.) And that was like the initial hook of the initial 'King Without a Crown,' which didn't really even make it to the recording that most people know. So I sang in that, I did a little beat box thing for him, picked out some chords and put it down, and we put a little beat together. And that was really the first song that I'd recorded in quite some time.

    I went and had him play the song on a loop, and I wrote all those lyrics right then and there and the chorus in maybe 20 or 30 minutes. I put them down and then went back to the Yeshiva and I burned a CD of that song. That was before iPods – I had my Discman.

    In the summer the Yeshiva went up to the Catskills, and so we drove up to the Catskills, and we spent three months up there just in the middle of nowhere. And the only music that I had with me was that song. And I would say maybe once a week or so I would sort of walk down into the woods, leave everybody and go listen to that song. And that song is what kept my dream alive to do music. Listen to it, I realized there was no other music like it. It was what I wanted to hear, and I wasn't hearing anything like it. I'd never heard anything mixing those genres, mixing those styles together in that way.

    I realized that I had created something special because it really spoke to my soul, and that's what kept my wheels turning when I was in that environment." (Here's our full interview with Matisyahu.)
  • As Matisyahu traveled along his spiritual journey, this song evolved in meaning for him. He told us: "It's not the same as it was for me in those days. It's like a particular relationship; there's initial love that you have, and then you start living together. And that's what being a working musician is kind of like. It's a delicate balance; it's very intense because it's your love, but it's also now your life and your job and all those other things. So it becomes tricky."
  • This song first appeared on Matisyahu's independent debut album Shake off the Dust... Arise in 2004. In 2005, it was part of his Live at Stubb's album (Stubb's is a great concert/BBQ joint in Austin, Texas), and issued as a single in advance of his 2006 album Youth, which came out on Epic Records.

Comments: 3

  • Tyler Pitman from Jackson, WyA great thing about spirituality is that it crosses religions. You don't have to be Jewish, Christian, or anything else to get what Matisyahoo means in this song. Higher power before self. Letting go of your ego, your addictions, and your selfishness. Some good advice in this song to help free you from what torments us inside......
  • Zach from Marion, InI'm not jewish..but Matisyahu really put it down. DO WORK SON!
  • Alex from Birmingham, AlPossibly one of Matisyahu's best and most known songs...
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