About the song

John Denver’s “Matthew”. A song that evokes a simpler time, a celebration of rural life and the profound impact of family. John Denver, a folksinger who rose to superstardom in the 1970s, was known for his optimistic outlook and his connection to nature. “Matthew” perfectly encapsulates these themes, offering a glimpse into the heart and soul of rural America.

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Released in 1974 on the album Back Home Again, “Matthew” wasn’t Denver’s biggest hit, but it resonated deeply with his fans. It’s a quieter song, a heartfelt ballad that stands in contrast to some of his more anthemic compositions like “Take Me Home, Country Roads” or “Sunshine on My Shoulders”. But within its gentle melody and introspective lyrics lies a powerful message about the enduring strength of family and the values instilled in childhood.

The song opens with a simple acoustic guitar figure, setting a peaceful and intimate tone. Denver’s warm baritone voice then takes center stage, singing directly to a character named Matthew. We learn that Matthew has come “to ease my daddy’s burden, and he came to be my friend.” The listener is immediately drawn into this family dynamic, one where children not only bring joy but also contribute to the household.

Denver paints a picture of a life grounded in simple pleasures. “Gold was just a windy Kansas wheat field, blue was just the Kansas summer sky,” he sings. Material possessions hold little value compared to the beauty of nature and the bond between family members. “Joy was just a thing that he was raised on, love was just a way to live and die,” further emphasizes the importance of these core values passed down through generations.

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The song takes a more introspective turn in the second verse. Denver reflects on his own childhood and the lessons learned: “The lessons of the land they sunk real deep, the wind it sang a lullaby so sweet.” Nature becomes a teacher, its rhythms and cycles shaping one’s understanding of life. “Matthew” isn’t just about a specific person; it’s a meditation on the universal experience of growing up in a rural setting, surrounded by the vastness of nature and the closeness of family.

“Matthew” doesn’t shy away from the challenges of rural life. The song acknowledges the hard work and sacrifice that comes with living off the land. However, it ultimately celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the enduring strength found in family bonds. It’s a song that reminds us of the importance of our roots, the values instilled in us during our formative years, and the beauty found in the simple things.

So, when you listen to “Matthew”, take a moment to appreciate John Denver’s storytelling ability. He weaves a tapestry of rural life, filled with love, hard work, and a deep appreciation for the natural world. It’s a song that transcends generations, offering a timeless message about the importance of family and the enduring strength found in simplicity.

Video

Lyrics

I had an uncle, name of Matthew, he was his father’s only boy.
Born just south of Colby, Kansas, he was his mother’s pride and joy.

Yes, and joy was just a thing that he was raised on,
love was just a way to live and die.
Gold was just a windy Kansas wheat field,
blue was just the Kansas summer sky.

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And all the stories that he told me back when I was just a lad.
All the memories that he gave me, all the good times that he had.
Growing up a Kansas farm boy, life was mostly having fun.

Riding on his daddy’s shoulders behind the mule, beneath the sun.
Yes, and joy was just a thing that he was raised on,
love was just a way to live and die.
Gold was just a windy Kansas wheat field,
blue was just the Kansas summer sky.

Well, I guess there were some hard times, and I’m told some years were lean.
They had a storm in ’47, twister came and stripped ’em clean.
He lost the farm, he lost his family, he lost the wheat, he lost his home.

But he found the family bible, his faith as solid as a stone.
Yes, and joy was just a thing that he was raised on,
love was just a way to live and die.
Gold was just a windy Kansas wheat field,
blue was just the Kansas summer sky.

So he came to live at our house, and he came to work the land.
He came to ease my daddy’s burden, and he came to be my friend.
So I wrote this down for Matthew, and it’s for him this song is sung.

Riding on his daddy’s shoulders, behind the mule, beneath the sun
Yes, and joy was just a thing that he was raised on,
love was just a way to live and die.

Gold was just a windy Kansas wheat field,
blue was just the Kansas summer sky.
Yes, and joy was just a thing that he was raised on,
love was just a way to live and die.
Gold was just a windy Kansas wheat field,
blue was just the Kansas summer sky.

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