Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Gotta Serve Somebody vs. Serve Yourself

John Lennon was really offended by Bob Dylan’s latest single, “Gotta Serve Somebody.” Dylan recorded the song for his 1979 album Slow Train Coming.  The album and the song was part of Bob’s short lived conversion to Christianity.  In his diary, John wrote, “The backing was mediocre by Jerry Wexler, the singing was really pathetic, and the words were just embarrassing.”  The Grammy people didn’t think so, they gave Dylan a huge spotlight at the 1980 awards, and let him take home the trophy for “Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Male.”  In a snide retort, John wrote/improvised a funny little rant called “Serve Yourself,” a track which never got an official release.  Well, the Grammys are a joke, and always have been, and I fully understand John’s sense of embarrassment and betrayal by Dylan, but I kinda love “Gotta Serve Somebody.”  I think the message is clever enough that it extends beyond the religious into the philosophical, and it sets up an interesting battle of ideas between the two rock gods.  I always suspected that “Gotta Serve Somebody” was Dylan’s response to Lennon’s line from ten years earlier when John proclaimed, “I don’t believe in Zimmerman [Dylan’s real name for the uninitiated],…I just believe in me” from “God” (Plastic Ono Band.)  It’s Dylan rejecting Lennon’s idea of discarding all figures of worship and idolatry and claiming that in the end, whether you like it or not, you are serving something, whether it be a God, a devil, or just a concept.  Lennon disagrees, and he makes no bones about making it known, or he would have had he lived.  Anyway, here are both tracks, in all their glory.  Who do you think wins?  Dylan, Lennon, God, or the devil?  Let me know.

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13 Responses to “Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Gotta Serve Somebody vs. Serve Yourself”

  1. julia says:

    Hmm… I wonder who wins… God or the devil.

    That ain’t no real question, bra, think!
    The devil must just be some pawn or something.

    The real question is, who’s side will you be on when you’re all out of time?

  2. suzette says:

    I’ll be on God’s side

  3. suzette says:

    Well sometimes its hard to not ride the fence.

  4. rodomonte says:

    Wfhat is the point of the copyright holder removing a music video from youtube if they never market the video anywhere. Jstt plain jerks.

  5. amanda burns says:


  6. Zoe says:

    Lennon. Love Dylan but John all the way on this one.

  7. Steven Shelton says:

    I can tell you who doesn’t win, and that is no one if mark David Chapman wins.

  8. Tallen says:

    Sincerely, I’ve always loved the Dylan song, but just personalized the message with cynicism. Whereas the Lennon song gets the message right, but as “music” has nothing on the Dylan song.

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