I familiarised myself with Every Grain of Sand after hearing it on 1991’s The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991 (version below) featuring Jennifer Warnes on backing vocal. I was in complete awe of it when I first heard it and I still am to this day. It evokes allusions to Jesus, Judaism, Faith and Spirituality. The commercial, but weaker version (in my opinion) was released on Dylan’s Christian record Shot of Love. Every Grain of Sand by Bob Dylan contains some of the best lyrics I have heard in any song;
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 dying 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 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
The song was well known for its haunting imagery, which has been compared to that of William Blake. Although it is filled with numerous Biblical references, it may also have been partly inspired by the following lines from William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence:
To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.
“Every Grain of Sand” is “perhaps his most sublime work to date“, wrote Clinton Heylin, “the summation of a number of attempts to express what the promise of redemption meant to him personally“.
This is a difficult song to write about since I have written so much about Dylan and it’s better to let this song rest with the listener. It’s a spiritual epiphany of sorts and will affect people in different ways. What can you say about this song that expands on his lyrics? Almost zero..
Every Grain of Sand – Wikpedia