I DJ damn near everything in my life, even when there’s no music playing. I’m always listening to something in my head. What’s the right music for this? If I’m in a car, having people over to my house, at a bar or party, I’m always taking over the music or trying to. So, you can imagine how I was when I hired a DJ for my own wedding in 2005.
Shockingly, I didn’t give her a long list of songs that I wanted to hear. I did give her a brief, detailed list of exactly what I didn’t want to hear under any circumstances. The list when like this: Anything country, Dave Matthews Band, and “Cotton-Eyed Joe.” I told her if she was able to avoid any of that she’d earn herself a bonus. I despise country music and this is well documented. My wife is with me on this. I don’t need to hear that while I’m trying to enjoy myself at my own wedding. “Cotton-Eyed Joe” is just the fucking worst and I swear it’s been played at every wedding I’ve ever attended…except my own. I told her if you wanna play “Cupid Shuffle” or “Electric Slide” or “Cha Cha Slide” or any of that other boilerplate wedding shit that gets people on the dance floor, knock yourself out. No “Cotton Eyed-Joe” under any circumstance, period.
I started my anti-DMB crusade in my college days. If you were in college in the late 1990s you could not escape Dave Matthews Band. At first it seemed harmless, but the more I heard those goddamned ants crawling crash into me songs, the more they grated on me. You couldn’t travel 30 feet without hearing that shit and one day I finally asked. What am I missing? Why am I the only one bothered by this mediocrity? You would think I had spit on everyone’s mothers. How dare I besmirch the beloved DMB? Picture this scene but substitute BNL with DMB. Once that happened I had only one option: Double down. I went from the guy who didn’t like DMB to the guy who straight up fucking hated DMB. I relish my role as The Dave Matthews Hater. It brings me great joy. I warned the DJ that keeping them off the playlist would be her most difficult challenge. I heard throughout the wedding that multiple people were offering her significant bribes to play Dave Matthews Band. She didn’t cave. God bless her.
One song she was instructed to play was our wedding song/first dance/whatever you call “our song” at a wedding. That was “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys. It’s a beautiful song that lays out exactly how I felt and still feel about my wife. It was mutually agreed upon, so I’m assuming she feels the same…I hope so. I’ve been living under that impression for a while now anyway. My lasting memory of dancing to that song with my wife on our wedding night is my friend Craig, who was already well on his way to hammered and kept emphatically declaring, “THIS IS A GREAT SONG,” every 10 seconds or so. We laughed through the entire thing, and I thank Craig for doing that because dancing around with your lady and feeling a few hundred eyes watching you is wildly awkward.
However, the song I really wanted to chose if I had 100% choosing power was the only other song I remember telling our DJ that she absolutely had to play that night: “Higher” by D’Angelo. “Higher” is the tenth and final track from D’Angelo’s 1995 debut album Brown Sugar. It was written by D’Angelo and his brothers, Luther and Rodney Archer. Produced by D’Angelo and Bob Power. All instruments and vocals by D’Angelo.
You can hear the organ in the opening seconds of “Higher” and you realize immediately that D is taking you to church. His father was a Pentecostal minister and he spent his formative years singing and performing in his church. I’m not a religious person, but when I hear D’Angelo sing a song like “Higher” I understand. It’s moving. When he sings, “Just like an angel watching over me you protect me from my fears. I once was blind but now I see. I just wanna say I want you in my life until the day I die, baby,” that’s the wedding song right there. It gets no better.
We had to wrap up our wedding reception at midnight. At 11:50 PM the DJ called me over to ask me, “Do you want me to keep the uptempo dance music or end the night with the D’Angelo slow song?” The answer was easy. Give me D’Angelo. I’m quite certain the only people remaining in the building familiar with that song were my brother and me. But, with the best day of my life coming to a close dancing with my now-wife – not alone this time, but surrounded by our closest family and friends – the last song we heard that night was “Higher” by D’Angelo and it was glorious. Everyone was dancing and many were asking me what we were listening to because they loved it. My homie Tews spent much of the song continuing to tell Chelsee (as he had for several hours that night) that he had the swipe card that would unlock her chastity belt. You see, Tews was convinced that Chels’s parents had fitted her with a more modern chastity belt that didn’t have a lock, but a card reader…forget it. You had to be there. It was a lovely moment and I never wanted it to end. That’s how I feel when I hear this song.
This song is a fantastic start to the new week. Just put “Higher” on repeat and let the positive vibe carry you through your Monday. One of my all-time D’Angelo favorites. Tuesday’s song is also high on my list and I consider it to be the ultimate headphone song. Come back tomorrow for an explanation.