Bob Dylan

Every Grain of Sand

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One of Bob Dylan's most consistently highly acclaimed songs is "Every Grain of Sand." Much has been written about it, and it is undoubtedly the jewel of Shot of Love. A slow, meditative piano-led ballad, it is Dylan's most perceptive analysis of his own faith and his exploration of Christianity. Indeed, although Shot of Love is part of Dylan's religious trilogy of albums, many of the tracks are not overtly religious in their theme. "Every Grain of Sand," however, is a magnificent exploration of religion and certainly confessional in its approach. Many critics have argued lyrics in the song such as "Onward in my journey/I come to understand/That every hair is numbered/Like every grain of sand" to be Dylan believing in divine intervention or a kind of predestination. However, when Elliot Mintz put this question to Dylan in a 1991 interview, he strongly refuted this claim, instead arguing that the song explored coincidence, not determinism. Quite what Dylan wants to express in the song is not absolutely clear, therefore, but there's no denying its poeticism and power. Couplets like the opening lines, "In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need/When a pool of tears beneath my feet, flood every new born seed," are inspired, and it is easy to quote almost every line of the song as being of similar merit. Without question one of Dylan's finest songs of the 1980s, "Every Grain of Sand" is a work of genius, and a song which Dylan has performed in concert many times over the years. Emmylou Harris recorded a compelling, ethereal version of the song on her Wrecking Ball album, although the song has not been widely performed by other artists.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Shot of Love 1981 Columbia 6:11
Biograph 1985 Columbia 6:15
The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961-1991 1991 Columbia / Sony Music Distribution 3:38
Another Day in Paradise 1999
Original Soundtrack
V2 6:11
No Image 2000 Sony Music Distribution 6:13
No Image 2006
Various Artists
Sony BMG 6:14
The Complete Album Collection, Vol. 1 2013 Columbia Records / Sony Music 6:12
The Bootleg Series, Vol. 13: Trouble No More 1979-1981 2017 Columbia / Columbia Records / Legacy / Sony Music 3:41