Bob Dylan confronts our ideals of selfless service in this gospel-inspired folk classic, which apparently annoyed the heck out of John Lennon:
Sometimes the greatest truths are the ones which elude us the most. When I first heard this Dylan tune, on a long car ride with my mother, who had it on a playlist, I implored her to let me play it over and over. Some songs are like that: they carry a special message, the one we most need to hear in that moment.
I think she let me hear the song once over, and we continued on our musical, and driven, journey. But I longed to hear it some more, and understand what he was really saying.
My own spiritual teacher cautions us that we’re always serving something too: whether it be our convenience, or our attachments, or our sense of our lives being “meant to be a certain way”. I yearned to dig into the core of this song, and compare notes with Dylan about what he really meant.
If you read the critiques of the song, apparently it got John Lennon into a kerfluffle, and he wrote a comeback song, here, called “Serve Yourself”.
Weighing these two versions also led me to write my own response:
You may be a Christian
You may be black or white
But you gotta love somebody
You sure gotta love somebody
It could be a dog
Or it could be your wife
But you gotta love somebody,
Yeah, to make it in this life, you really gotta love somebody…
Yeah, you gotta love somebody.
You may think you’re a heathen,
Or in love with Jesus Christ
But to make it in this life you really gotta love somebody
Yeah, you gotta love somebody, to make it in this life.
To deserve Heaven above, boy,
Yeah, to make it in this life
You gotta love somebody,
Yeah you really gotta love somebody
You gotta love somebody
Yeah, you still really gotta love somebody
Even if it’s your dog, or your alien mother, or a piece of cream pie…
– No! The thing’s gotta breathe,
To make it in this life.
Segue: All You Need is Love by the Beatles (as a Karaoke version—because we know we’re headed in that direction!)
Author: Sylvia Boss
Image: Vimeo still