With God on Our Side

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 appearance at The Town Hall in New York City on April 12, 1963. Currently, 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 various wars and events from United States and world history, 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.

Radio personality 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."

Dylan claims "With God on Our Side" is an entirely original composition, however, its melody very strongly resembles that of "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 has 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. English 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 [the] 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 the verse about the Germans and the Holocaust, for unspecified reasons.

Among the most famous covers, Joan Baez included the song on her live In Concert, Part 2 album from 1963 (recorded shortly after Dylan wrote it). More recently, the song has been covered by the indie rock band Straylight Run, as well as by the Neville Brothers on their 1989 album Yellow Moon. Both singer/songwriters Derek Webb and Jonah Matranga have performed the song live on numerous occasions. Buddy Miller also performed the song on his album Universal United House of Prayer in 2004, adding an Irish dirge-like arrangement. British band Half Man Half Biscuit released a parody of the song, titled With Goth On Our Side, on their album Trouble Over Bridgwater released in 2000.

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