At number 10 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 10 best Bob Dylan songs is “Every Grain of Sand”. This is the last song on Dylan’s third “Christian” album, “Shot of Love”, and to my mind is his best Christian/born again song, along with “Precious Angel”, which is on his first Christian album “Slow Train Coming”.
It was a bit of shock to Dylan fans when he was “born again”. It was right around the time that I was becoming aware of him. In 1978 his song “Baby Please Stop Crying” from his album “Street Legal” had been a minor hit in the Disunited Kingdom, and I had liked it a lot. I had also just bought his 1966 album ‘Blonde on Blonde”, as it was often referred to as the second best album ever next to the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper”, and I knew Dylan had been a big influence on John Lennon.
Here is the screen capture of what Rolling Stone Magazine has to say about this song.
As the caption says, Bono of U2 likens this song to a psalm, and for me the harmonica playing in this song is amongst Dylan’s best. Here are the lyrics
In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need
When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed
There’s a dyin’ voice within me reaching out somewhere
Toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair
Don’t have the inclination to look back on any mistake
Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break
In the fury of the moment I can see the Master’s hand
In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand
Oh, the flowers of indulgence and the weeds of yesteryear
Like criminals, they have choked the breath of conscience and good cheer
The sun beat down upon the steps of time to light the way
To ease the pain of idleness and the memory of decay
I gaze into the doorway of temptation’s angry flame
And every time I pass that way I always hear my name
Then onward in my journey I come to understand
That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand
I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer’s dream, in the chill of a wintry light
In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space
In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face
I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand
You can read the original lyrics on Bob Dylan’s official website, in addition to hearing a short extract of the original studio version here. As usual, all studio versions of this song have been removed from YouTube, so the only decent version I could find was this live version, but it is not a patch on the 1981 version on “Shot of Love” in my opinion. I highly recommend listening to the original.