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Dave Matthews' Five Unlikeliest Musical Collaborations

Short of the Grateful Dead and the Beatles, no musical act has a more loyal fan base than Dave Matthews Band. Since its founding 23 years ago in Virginia, DMB has packed venues large and small. This year is no different. The band returns to South Florida's Cruzan Amphitheatre with two back-to-back shows. The diehards who continually attend the group's shows don't turn out just to hear frontman and namesake Dave croon and pluck his guitar; they're also eager to catch founding bassist Stefan Lessard, original drummer Carter Beauford, saxophonist Jeff Coffin, guitarist Tim Reynolds, trumpeter Rashawn Ross, and especially violinist Boyd Tinsley — who is arguably the most crucial ingredient in the band's distinct sound.

But beyond the regulars, another draw is that you never know who might show up onstage to jam or sing. From international influences like South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela to banjo legend Bela Fleck to Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready, DMB is always ready to share the spotlight with a varied assortment of guests. In the band's communal spirit, we look back at five of the least likely musicians Dave Matthews has made music with over the years.

1. Grover. You'd think hanging out on a Sesame Street stoop would be all fun and games, but when Matthews guest-starred on the children's show last year, both he and the blue Muppet Grover were having feelings they couldn't explain. So with his banjo in hand, Dave sang along with Grover "I Need a Word," a tune teaching both toddlers and DMB completists names for feelings they might be having. This made Dave, Grover, and viewers joyful, especially when the two ended the skit with a happy, old-timey banjo tune.

2. The Rolling Stones. On the Rolling Stones' Bridges to Babylon Tour in 1997, the opening act was none other than Dave Matthews Band. But instead of being allowed to enjoy the rest of the night after playing the opener, Matthews was called back onstage to sing "Memory Motel" and a haunting rendition of "Wild Horses" alongside Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and company. The Stones thought so highly of the musician's work that they included his contribution to "Memory Motel" on their 1998 live album, No Security.

3. Paul Oakenfold. The British DJ answered the question of what Dave Matthews Band would sound like if the members quit their day jobs and concentrated on trip-hop. Oakenfold remixed "When the World Ends" from 2001's Everyday album for the soundtrack to the 2003 movie The Matrix Reloaded and made an upbeat, romantic song into something entirely different — dark, industrial, and fitting for the world of Neo and Morpheus.

4. Jurassic 5. The Los Angeles hip-hoppers collaborated with DMB in 2006 for "Work It Out." Dave's mellow vocals perfectly complemented the Jurassic 5 MCs' nasal deliveries. The video is also worth checking out for a few laughs, even if the political references are dated — it shows a President George W. Bush imitator jogging in short-shorts while a faux Dick Cheney joins the workout on a Segway.

5. Johnny Cash. A year before the Man in Black died, he sang and played guitar with Dave Matthews on "For You." The song appeared on the soundtrack to the 2002 Mel Gibson movie We Were Soldiers. Cash and Matthews recorded their parts for the ballad in separate studios, but the duo had previously met at a 1999 tribute to Cash where Dave played a cover of his "Long Black Veil" with another country legend, Emmylou Harris.

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David Rolland is a freelance writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach and Miami New Times. His novel, The End of the Century, published by Jitney Books, is available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland

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