Messianic Jewish singer-songwriter brings challenge

Bob 2The Royal Albert Hall, London, Friday 28 November 2013.

Three friends from Thurrock sit above and to one side of the stage.

And on that stage, with four musicians, is the former Robert Zimmerman. Jewish by birth, he is the foremost American poet of the second half of the twentieth century, and despite having a voice like a bowl of thick gravelly gravy, continues to write and perform at the age of 72.

In the late 1970s he became a follower Jesus Christ. He immediately produced three albums of overt faith, and thereafter many lyrics with a Christian content. In 2009 he described himself as a 'true believer' because of the Christian content on a Christmas album he recorded.

The fourth song of his set has such a lyric. It's called What Good Am I? It's about hypocrisy. It's about being true to oneself. It's about integrity and honesty. It questions, it challenges, it gets between the bone and the marrow.

Some say this poet is a prophet. His name is Bob Dylan.
  • What do these words say to you?
  • What words and parables of Jesus can you spot in the lyric?
  • Why does Dylan ask, "What good am I?"
  • What do you think does the image of having "hands (that) are tied" mean?
  • Why is Dylan wondering "Who tied them and why and where must I have been?"

What Good Am I?

What good am I if I’m like all the rest
If I just turn away, when I see how you’re dressed
If I shut myself off so I can’t hear you cry
What good am I?
Bob 1
What good am I if I know and don’t do
If I see and don’t say, if I look right through you
If I turn a deaf ear to the thunderin’ sky
What good am I?

What good am I while you softly weep
And I hear in my head what you say in your sleep
And I freeze in the moment like the rest who don’t try
What good am I?

What good am I then to others and me
If I’ve had every chance and yet still fail to see
If my hands are tied must I not wonder within
Who tied them and why and where must I have been?

What good am I if I say foolish things
And I laugh in the face of what sorrow brings
And I just turn my back while you silently die
What good am I?

Copyright © 1989 by Special Rider Music

This song can be found on the album Oh Mercy, 1989.
You can hear it here:

Tim Harrold, 05/12/2013

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