May 12: Bob Dylan: With God On Our Side, Broadcast by BBC 1 in 1964


Oh my name it is nothin’
My age it means less
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
I’s taught and brought up there
The laws to abide
And that the land that I live in
Has God on its side

Originally due to appear on the English “Tonight” program on the eighth of May, Dylan appears on the program on the 12th, introduced by Cliff Michelmore. He performs a very hesitant version of “With God on Our Side.” The TV footage is obviously a video insert, so it was presumably filmed earlier in the day.
~Clinton Heylin (Bob Dylan: A Life in Stolen Moments Day by Day 1941-1995)

BBC Studios
London, England
Early May 1964

Broadcast by BBC 1 12 May 1964 in the program Tonight. Rebroadcast 11 September 1984.

Oh the history books tell it
They tell it so well
The cavalries charged
The Indians fell
The cavalries charged
The Indians died
Oh the country was young
With God on its side

Oh the Spanish-American
War had its day
And the Civil War too
Was soon laid away
And the names of the heroes
l’s made to memorize
With guns in their hands
And God on their side

Oh the First World War, boys
It closed out its fate
The reason for fighting
I never got straight
But I learned to accept it
Accept it with pride
For you don’t count the dead
When God’s on your side

When the Second World War
Came to an end
We forgave the Germans
And we were friends
Though they murdered six million
In the ovens they fried
The Germans now too
Have God on their side

I’ve learned to hate Russians
All through my whole life
If another war starts
It’s them we must fight
To hate them and fear them
To run and to hide
And accept it all bravely
With God on my side

But now we got weapons
Of the chemical dust
If fire them we’re forced to
Then fire them we must
One push of the button
And a shot the world wide
And you never ask questions
When God’s on your side

Through many dark hour
I’ve been thinkin’ about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can’t think for you
You’ll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side

So now as I’m leavin’
I’m weary as Hell
The confusion I’m feelin’
Ain’t no tongue can tell
The words fill my head
And fall to the floor
If God’s on our side
He’ll stop the next war

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6 thoughts on “May 12: Bob Dylan: With God On Our Side, Broadcast by BBC 1 in 1964”

  1. Quite the depth and wit : With God …
    Great lyrics and singing Bob D.; who is not one to encourage his lyrics to be pinned down . To dig deep into the last verses Bob sings about Judas Iscariot , whom Christians know was the Disciple to betray Jesus with a kiss. However , “what is written “Jesus said “shall come to pass “. “Think for yourselves “, sings Bob “. I can’t think for you “? Who is Judas really…a close Disciple… or a sinner to God ? Is God always on America ‘s side for wars ? Dylan as always, the consummate writer of abstract lyrics , whose songs we try to immortalize , as we do with the Bard himself. What a cross to carry !

    1. One worry in Dylan’s mind might have been the audience reacting to the lyrics being sung to the almost-unchanged melody of “The Patriot Game”, itself from an earlier traditional tune “The merry month of May”. As we know, Dylan was at the time in the midst of creativity and controversy, lifting inspired storylines for lyrics and traditional melodies for new songs. Other prominent examples include “Blowing in the wind”, “Masters of War”, “Gates of Eden”, “It’s alright, ma” – all of which caused speculation and noise around a defensive Dylan.

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