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John Piper rewrites Bob Dylan's 'Gotta Serve Somebody'

John Piper says that Bob Dylan got THIS right.

What did Dylan get sooooooo right? His song ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’!

Says Piper…

In 1979 Bob Dylan recorded the song “Gotta Serve Somebody.” For those who listen with biblically informed ears the refrain echoes Paul and Jesus:

Paul: “You are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness” (Romans 6:16).

Jesus: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24).

Piper then says…

This is one of the truest songs Dylan has written. John Lennon was so angry with it that he wrote an obscene counter-song, “Serve Yourself,” which was so bad, Yoko Ono published an apologetic explanation of it in 1998.

But even though Dylan got this sooooo right, he didn’t get it all right. So Piper decided to do it better. (In JP’s defense, he says his version isn’t better…) But perhaps it’s just righter?

Here’s Dylan’s version of ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’…

Find more artists like Bob Dylan at Myspace Music

HERE’S Piper’s version of ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’….

“Gotta Serve Somebody (Remix)” by John Piper

You may like Bob Dylan or you may think he’s trash,
You may not remember when he had a mustache,
You may think the man is stoned, his throat is full of tacks,
You may wish his blood had been poured out on the tracks.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed,
You’re gonna have to serve somebody.
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord,
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

You may be a modern Jew, and think your Bobby’s great,
You may be from Hibbing, by a simple twist of fate,
You may think religion is a crock and a sham,
You may shut your ears at the blood of the Lamb.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody . . . .

You may have a ponytail and know how to preach,
You may have been baptized on the Malibu beach,
You may love the album, “Saved,” and hope that it is true,
Or you may think that Bobby’s brain was tangled up in blue.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody . . . .

You may be a racist and wish times had never changed,
You may hate the sixties when it all got rearranged,
Or you may be a Democrat on Capitol Hill,
You may sing the story of the death of Emmett Till.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody . . . .

You may think the globe is getting hotter every day,
You may follow Albert Gore and be a protégé.
Or you may drive an SUV and never be chagrinned,
You may give the answer: Ice, is blowin’ in the wind.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody . . . .

You may swear by Kindle, or you may swear by Nook,
You may love your iPad screen, or you may love your book,
You may have a radio and let the jockey choose,
Or you may love Pandora ’cause it follows all your cues.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody . . . .

You may be emergent now and worship on a rug,
You may think that doctrine is a bourgeois drug,
You may call yourself Reformed, with a torn pair of jeans,
You may specialize in church for cool libertines.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody . . . .

You may love philosophy and you may love Descartes,
You may love Beethoven’s flair, and you may love Mozart,
You may love Bob Kauflin and the sounds of Sovereign Grace,
Or you may wish the world was full of a thousand Lecraes.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody . . . .

You might use a manly gel to make your hair a mess,
Or you may wear a coat and tie the way the bankers dress,
You may preach like Francis Chan and think that hot is cool,
Or you may be as nonchalant as Keller on a stool.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed, . . . .

You may swear by Narnia or you may swear by Grit,
You may think an actor is a trained hypocrite,
You may love the culture, and you may love the world,
Or you may see her sensual, with a finger curled.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody . . . .

You may think that Dylan was a shelter in the storm,
Or you may think his single rule was disobey the norm,
You may think it’s too late: he’s a victim of renown,
Or you may hope he’ll turn again when the deal goes down.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody . . . .

You may see him tryin’ to get to heaven on his own,
You may think he’s lost his way like a rollin’ stone,
But you can see one thing is clear, it’s shining in the night,
You may like it, you may not, but Dylan got this right:

You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed,
You’re gonna have to serve somebody.
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord,
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody. SOURCE.

Thanks Jen for sending this to me!



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Comments read comments(25)
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Adam Whitley

posted March 8, 2011 at 7:54 am


Now I’ve just got this mental picture of Piper sitting in his oaken study, thinking he’s SO clever, snickering to himself while writing this. I think he’s got to get off this hiatus thing. He’s got too much time on his hands.

//AW



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Travis Mamone

posted March 8, 2011 at 8:06 am


Piper shouldn’t quit his day job.



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    Joe

    posted March 8, 2011 at 9:38 am


    I wish he would quit his day job…



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Bradley

posted March 8, 2011 at 8:12 am


Shocking arrogance to correct one of the worlds most prolific writters. Dylan wrote the song the way it was supposed to be written. I guess we shouldn’t be suprised. Piper and his ilk have trying to rewrite the constitution, claiming original intent. Read Thomas Jeffersons thoughts on Christianity before you criticize that statement.



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Bryan Chalker

posted March 8, 2011 at 8:16 am


ok. Well he actually said “To celebrate Dylan’s getting this truth so right, I have written new lyrics, not because they are better, but because they are updated for my religious world.”

Piper merely updated lyrics. Adam, you sound like you have a bitter taste in your mouth for Piper – maybe because he spoke again Bell? I don’t know.



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    Matthew Paul Turner

    posted March 8, 2011 at 8:26 am


    Piper’s “mere update” is a rewrite.

    And I for one have never tasted Piper, so I don’t know if it’s bitter or not.



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      Bryan Chalker

      posted March 8, 2011 at 8:33 am


      :) – that was said to Adam. I know..was more than “merely an update”, but I think the responses were a bit harsh. The song is incredible on it’s own (and in original form)…Piper never said (or even implied) that his re-write “fixed” it or made it superior. I completely agree, though…song-writing is not Piper’s forte, just as rapping is not Ed Young’s lol.



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      billy

      posted March 8, 2011 at 8:58 am


      is using the melody of a song he admittedly likes to write verses he thinks fit in his life and his world with the same chorus wronging you? because you seem pissed about it. he is honoring the song. he didn’t change the verses, just added his own. the arrogance and general bitterness coming from you toward certain religious areas kind of puts you in the shoes you say you dislike.

      one more thing: telling people that piper said what he wrote is “righter” when they may not read what he really said on his blog is doing far worse of a “rewrite” than piper did. at least he included the original song with its exact wording. you changed piper’s words to make him look the way you wanted on your blog so people would think the same as you. you did link to his blog, but not including it in yours is still a disservice to readers who trust you to have enough info without them examining the original source.



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        Matthew Paul Turner

        posted March 8, 2011 at 9:07 am


        Billy,

        I’m not pissed about this at all. I just found it humorous that somebody would “honor” something “right” with a rewrite. That’s sort of ironic. I think sometimes people want me to be bitter and arrogant in effort to discount my blog and my opinions. You don’t have to be bitter and arrogant to understand irony, Billy.

        But I did alter the “righter” sentence. I don’t want to give somebody the wrong impression.

        Hope you have a nice day man. Thanks for your thoughts.



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          billy

          posted March 8, 2011 at 9:49 am


          pissed was the wrong word. i enjoy your blog, and know that this sort of thing is exactly what is humorous in christian circles. i felt this was more of a mean scoff than a “this is so dumb its funny” post, which, really, what does it matter? and i do want to clarify that this sentence: “the arrogance and general bitterness coming from you toward certain religious areas kind of puts you in the shoes you say you dislike.” shouldn’t be directed at you personally, just as a general statement about what bitterness does.

          all this to say i enjoy your blog, and i’m glad you let commenters hash it out with you for the public to see. thanks for responding.



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Jon Piper

posted March 8, 2011 at 9:06 am


Hello, I’m also a God botherer called Jon Piper (no ‘h’). I’m not American though, and I’ve never rewritten the lyrics of a popular song (except when I was 13 and made up rude words to hymns).

On behalf of Jo(h)n Pipers everywhere, I’d like to distance myself from these ill-advised rewriting actions and refute the bitter Piper claim. I am told that I actually taste like a complex combination of cherry, sherry-cask aged whiskey and sweat.



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Bradley

posted March 8, 2011 at 9:19 am


I agree this is a rewrite and it does stink of arrogance. Bob Dylan wrote this song after his conversion to Christianity. Obviously the song was about his heart and walk of faith at that time in his life. Dylan got it all right that song came from his heart. Piper is arroogant because he changed the lyrics for his own message.



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KatR

posted March 8, 2011 at 9:21 am


“You may be emergent now and worship on a rug,
You may think that doctrine is a bourgeois drug,
You may call yourself Reformed, with a torn pair of jeans,
You may specialize in church for cool libertines.”

Can someone explain any of this to me? Emergent churches worshiping on rugs? Reformed churches full of libertines?



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    Leanne

    posted March 8, 2011 at 9:37 am


    I am not an expert in these areas but I will try and explain. If I am taking you serious and you were not, forgive me please.
    emergent churches have a variety of relaxed worship styles. There are churches who do not sit in pews but rather at tables to discuss for part of the sermon time. Emergent churches are also more apt to meeting in homes for worship service and small group. I am thinking worship on a rug reflects that homey, relaxed setting of the emergent worship.
    I am thinking his line about cool libertines may be a poke at the more liberal denominations who started out in Reformed Theology but have a more lax idea of morality. What feels good to me or to you kind of attitude. But I could completely be wrong with these assessments.



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      KatR

      posted March 8, 2011 at 9:48 am


      I was sort of kidding, but I appreciate the background info. It makes the verse (slightly) less loopy.



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    Grace

    posted March 10, 2011 at 2:42 pm


    God, he’s an arrogant douche.



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Michael

posted March 8, 2011 at 9:30 am


I want to see what Piper thinks of Masters of War. Or perhaps Gates of Eden.

Being a huge Dylan fan, I resent the rewrite, and especially the references to his albums and other songs, which seem to me to be a dig at Dylan. Maybe not. Granted, this isn’t one of my favourite songs of his. There are a lot of things that Bobby got right.

Christians love to quote this song. Let’s hate that dirty hippy through all the other phases of his career, but for this small time, let’s reference him as a great bard of truth.

Good rule of thumb, though, never put your own lyrics to someone else’s song to express your beliefs. It never comes off well.



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Dianna

posted March 8, 2011 at 10:19 am


Question: Does this count as fanfiction? Is John Piper secretly a fan of taking characters from an already established story and creating his own?

Because that’s the only way that rewriting something would be honoring it, and this is a strange way to go about it.



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    Eric

    posted March 8, 2011 at 11:51 am


    One might make a case (though I’m not sure it would quite convince me) that this qualifies as “Filk”– a fanfiction-style parody of a popular song, altered to fit the author’s favorite fandom. On those terms, Piper is about as good at it as the average sci-fi geek.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filk_music



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Amy

posted March 8, 2011 at 10:25 am


The posts on this site are funny, but the comments are even funnier. I mean, Jon “no H” Piper–that’s hilarious.

MPT, I think it’s funny to honor a song with a rewrite.

A random note: When I saw Bob Dylan in concert in 1999, he opened his set with “Gotta Serve Somebody.” My dad was majorly excited. I was more excited to see Natalie Merchant, who was on tour with Dylan at the time. :)



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Jeff

posted March 8, 2011 at 5:45 pm


I find it interesting that Piper would be fine with changing lyrics to a song by Dylan but is anti-changing words to hymns or poetry. Here’s a tweet from his own wife… (I think this is his wife..) She’s quoting him I believe…. http://twitter.com/NoelPiper/status/32533439466971136



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Justin

posted March 8, 2011 at 10:08 pm


I love Dylan and had “Slow Train Coming” memorized by the time I was 6. I realize that he isn’t just a great musician-poet of the 20th century, he’s THE musician-poet of the 20th century.

That said, “Gotta Serve Somebody” wasn’t the strongest of his “gospel” songs. I mean, he took Ray J. Johnson’s shtick and ran with it for a whole verse. No offense to the man, but not even Dylan is inerrant.

I’ll let Piper do his own version without getting too grouchy. :)



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UUXn

posted March 9, 2011 at 10:11 am


You really shouldn’t mess with the words of a true prophet like Dylan. How dare he to assumes he can improve on the words of the troubadour.



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Dan Alcantara

posted March 9, 2011 at 11:10 am


“John just wants to have fu-un…”



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