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|"With God on Our Side"|
|Song by Bob Dylan from the album The Times They Are a-Changin'|
|Released||January 13, 1964|
|Recorded||August 7, 1963|
|The Times They Are a-Changin' track listing|
- For the book by Michael Weinstein, see With God on Our Side: One Man's War Against an Evangelical Coup in America's Military.
"With God on Our Side" is a song by Bob Dylan, released as the third track on his 1964 album The Times They Are A-Changin'. Dylan first performed the song during his debut at The Town Hall in New York City on April 12, 1963. Dylan is known to sing the song only rarely in concert.
The lyrics generally address the notion of humans that God or some other higher power(s) invariably sides with them and opposes those with whom they disagree, and thus they don't question the morality of wars fought and atrocities committed by their country. Dylan mentions several historical events, including the slaughter of Native Americans in the nineteenth century, the Spanish–American War, the American Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Holocaust, the Cold War and the betrayal of Jesus Christ by Judas Iscariot; the song made no explicit reference to the Vietnam War until live renditions in the 1980s, when an additional verse ran thus:
In the nineteen-sixties came the Vietnam War
Can somebody tell me what we're fightin' for?
So many young men died
So many mothers cried
Now I ask the question
Was God on our side?
The title references Paul's Epistle to the Romans in the first century, "If God is for us, who can be against us?", written in a context of intense persecution, referencing Jesus' victory through death. This statement has then been reinterpreted through the centuries in the context of war.
Music critic Tim Riley once wrote: "'With God on Our Side' manages to voice political savvy mixed with generational naivete" as it "draws the line for those born long enough after World War I to find its issues blurry ('the reasons for fightin'/I never did get') and who view the forgiveness of the World War II Germans as a farce."
Controversy over composition
Dylan claims "With God on Our Side" is an entirely original composition, however, its melody is essentially identical to "The Patriot Game," a song with lyrics written by Dominic Behan and a melody borrowed from the traditional Irish folk song "The Merry Month of May". Behan called Dylan a plagiarist and a thief, but Dylan never responded to Behan's claims.
In the introduction to the song at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963, Dylan had the following to say, "Yeah. You know, Jean Redpath sang a song here awhile ago which I heard Liam Clancy sing about two years ago and I was listening to her sing it and I thought that I never, uh, I thought I wrote this song called 'With God on Your Side'. And it must have somewhere stayed in the back of my mind hearing Liam Clancy singing 'The Patriot Game'."
Dylan was familiar with "The Patriot Game", having first been introduced to the song by Scottish folksinger Nigel Denver. Scottish writer and folksinger Jim McLean said he remembers Dylan asking him in late 1962: "'What does it mean, 'Patriot Game'?'...I explained – probably lectured him – about Dr. Johnson, who's one of Dominic's favorite writers, and that's where Dominic picked up saying: 'Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.'"
A live recording of Dylan performing "With God on Our Side" with Joan Baez can be found on the album The Bootleg Series Vol. 6: Bob Dylan Live 1964, Concert at Philharmonic Hall, which was released in 2004. Dylan's own performance of the song on the album Bob Dylan Unplugged from 1995 significantly omits verses about the Germans and the Holocaust, and the Russians and the Cold War, for unspecified reasons.
- In 1963, Joan Baez included the song on her live In Concert, Part 2 album (recorded shortly after Dylan wrote it).
- In 1965 Chad Mitchell Trio recorded it on their album Typical American Boys and Odetta on her album Odetta Sings Dylan.
- In 1965, Manfred Mann covered the song on their The One In The Middle EP. The notes on the EP's sleeve state "In May 1964 Bob Dylan dropped in at London's Marquee Club to listen to the Manfreds, declaring them to be 'real groovy'. They returned the compliment with their performance of Dylan's controversial With God On Our Side."
- In 1970, Ramblin' Jack Elliott released a cover on his 1970 album "Bull Durham Sacks & Railroad Tracks
- In 1989, The Neville Brothers released a cover on their 1989 album Yellow Moon.
- In 1999, Ramblin' Jack Elliott released a cover on his 1999 album "The Long Ride".
- In 2000, British band Half Man Half Biscuit released a parody of the song, titled With Goth On Our Side, on their album Trouble Over Bridgwater.
- Jonah Matranga has performed the song live on numerous occasions. It is available (with Matranga performing as onelinedrawing) on the compilation album Sound Relief, Volume One: From CA to NYC (released 2001 on the Sound Relief Records label cat. 631037060028) – the compilation was originally put together to benefit the United Way's September 11th Fund, but the proceeds went to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina, as that disaster has occurred in the meantime.
- In 2004, Buddy Miller performed the song on his album Universal United House of Prayer, adding an Irish dirge-like arrangement.
- In 2004, indie rock band Straylight Run covered the song.
- In 2006, local Minneapolis band The Brothers Frantzich played the song at a well-known social justice Catholic Church, St. Joan of Arc. In 2007 they recorded it for their album "Heartwing".
- Singer/songwriter Derek Webb has performed the song live on numerous occasions.
- Bon Iver covered the song for the first time on September 24, 2011 at McMenamin's Edgefield in Troutdale, Oregon.
- In 2011, Barb Jungr covered the song on her album Man in the Long Black Coat.
- In 2012, K'naan covered the song for the compilation, "Chimes of Freedom: Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International".
Use in films and documentaries
"With God on Our Side" plays over the closing credits of two films, Oren Jacoby's 2007 documentary on anti-Semitism, Constantine's Sword, and Oliver Stone's 2008 biography of George W. Bush, W.
- ^ Romans 8.28–39
- ^ Nick Guida. "Nigel Denver at theBalladeers – Scotland". Theballadeers.com. Retrieved 2012-03-15.
- ^ Sleeve notes from The One in the Middle E.P., HMV 7EG 8908, released 18 June 1965
- Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics