"The Dam At Otter Creek" as written by Edward Joel Kowalczyk, Chad David Taylor, Patrick Dahlheimer and Chad Alan Gracey....
When all that's left to do
Is reflect on what's been done
This is where sadness breaths
The sadness of everyone

Just like when the guys built the
Dam at otter creek and all the
Water backed up
Deep enough to dive

We took the dead man in sheets
To the river flanked by love
Deep enough to dive
Deep enough to dive

Be here now
We took him there and three
In a stretcher made from trees
That had passed in the storm

Leave the hearse behind
To leave the curse
Be here now

Lyrics submitted by Caverna[RR]

"The Dam at Otter Creek" as written by Chad David Taylor Chad Alan Gracey

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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The Dam At Otter Creek song meanings
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  • +4
    Song Meaning“The Dam at Otter Creek” is a song about regret and the dangers of living in the past, i.e. “reflect[ing] on what’s been done.” The song states that this act of reflecting on the past is “where sadness breaths,” or to me it sometimes sounds like “where sadness breeds,” but either way the meaning is the same: “The sadness of everyone” lives in/stems from the act of dwelling on the past.

    In the second verse the song likens this act of dwelling on past mistakes to the act of building a dam. Constantly reflecting upon one’s past mistakes never allows a person to get over/overcome those mistakes, so dwelling on the past is a kind of mental block or dam, preventing progress. Past regrets that should be forgotten never are forgotten. They never become “water under the bridge,” to use that cliché. Instead these regrets get “backed up,” like water, slowly creating a pool of sorrow, perhaps “deep enough to dive” into.

    If the previous poster is right about the reference to actual events at Otter Creek Campground, then perhaps the next verse is suggesting that the eventual outcome of diving into a pool of one’s sorrows is drwoning. The “dead man in sheets” is a man who plunged into that pool, committing suicide perhaps, or otherwise becoming lifeless. Despite this man’s pool of sorrow, however, he is “flanked by love,” taken to the river by people who love him, surrounded by feelings of love equal to his feelings of regret, a “love deep enough to dive.” If only a person could learn to live in the present instead of dwelling on the past, or in other words “be here now,” then he could bathe in love instead of regret.

    The final verse is actually incorrectly noted here. The booklet that comes with the album shows the lyric as “We took him THREE and three,” suggesting there were six people carrying the dead man, three on each side.

    Anyway, using a “stretcher made from trees that passed in the storm” suggests a more productive way of dealing with past mistakes. Rather than damming up one’s regrets and sorrows, a person should use the debris from past troubles, or “storms,” to move forward, to carry them into the future instead of keeping them stuck in the past. The final lines of the verse, “leave the hearse behind, leave the curse behind,” are a simple restatement of the idea that one should let go of the past, live in the present, “be here now.”
    mattadoton March 13, 2010   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI live right down the road from Otter Creek Campground. There is a huge rock overhang there near the susquehanna river that once overlooked a section of water and a long time ago people would build a dam upstream to flood this waterhole to jump off this overhang into. At least one person has been known to have jumped off this rock to their death from the water not being deep enough and breaking something ultimatly drowning them. No swimming has been permitted there for years to prevent people from doing it again. I always thought thats what this song is about and some other locals agree.
    slicknixonon September 22, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI was down at Otter Creek today. I shot a nice photo of the hole we used to dam up. In summer there is not much choice as to which hole, so I know. I went swimming here many times, and I am of the age of Live members, I have seen the guys around York, in the day. Hope I can post the pic. Essentially, there is a big ledge 20 or so above the pool, which has a 5 foot waterfall. One would be crazy to jump from there. As I recall, one would jump from either of two rocks along the fall, as it lead into the pool. I've seen a few red neck stoners with a few beers in them do exactly this. And, I recall a few folks dying in the general area. There are a few spot along the susqeahanna right at the exit of Otter creek, where many go swimming.( thats a few hundred yards down.) Here too a few have died, its the nature of the river.Today, i walked back to do a little photography. The area was all posted. I stopped at the campground and asked permission to go back, knowing today was not a swimming day, they wished me luck. The path to the hole is all washed out now, from the big rains lately. Still, i saw plenty of beer cans, so it's still an old head spot for you that know what I mean. I never went to see LIVE when they played York, they never seemed a big deal to me or my group, and I am into music. I did catch them at Woodstock 2 on Friday night, they where good, and I believe that show is when they made it. Thats my opinion. I later boucotted LIVE when they cancelled the 2000 New Years Eve show, they where scared of Y2K. And, I think thats what ruined them around here anyways. By gones be by gones...Good Luck LIVE.
    drazzeldewon November 04, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentTotally underrated song here...
    cdconnon December 15, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentYeah, very underrated track!

    Coming from the spiritual philosophy viewpoint the first verse suggests Krishnamurti's idea that attachment and thoughtless acts can cause personal sorrow through regret. I think the dead man is metaphorical, being someone who has succumbed to the grind of daily life and become emotionally numb and hardened. Its the sense of a life ruined in the same way that the environment was affected when the dam was built. But the beautiful river is still there and by metaphorically taking this guy to the river they're making him spiritually aware, a kind of rebirth.
    laughinggiraffeon February 11, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe back cover of the "Throwing Copper" album shows a photo of a a sign saying:


    Which is interesting. Which "Otter Creek" is he talking about? A little search through Google shows there is an Otter Creek Campground near their native York, PA (in nearby Airville, PA). Anyone care to elaborate?
    stoolhardyon November 01, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIt's probably not the real meaning, but I always like to think that this song is about how the true artists need to be original, and stop trying to be like the artists they love. As if in order for the art to live on, people need to make original songs, and if all they do is appreciate bands like Live, then the music will die in time.

    Be here now, artists!!!!!!!!!!! :)
    steve82con October 22, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentYou guys, I know EXACTLY where i'm going! Trust me...
    morikahjoon August 26, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti agree with the last post, this song is great, i love the anger in his voice... great song
    richie8092on July 28, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentlyrics are veeeeeery unfinished, but regardless, I have the balls to call this the best song from Throwing Copper. beats I alone, beats Selling the Drama, beats Lightning Crashes, beats All Over You, beats Shit Towne.

    Screw you mainstream lovas, this is the shit.
    T_D_Phoenixon December 14, 2006   Link

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