With God On Our Side
His Master's Voice-EMI
Release Date: June 19th, 1965
Words by: Greg Webster
July 4th, 2015
Manfred Mann had found the pop groove with "Do-Wah-Diddy-Diddy" in 1964, but there was always a more cerebral strain to their music. This found expression in the cover of Dylan’s "With God on Our Side", the first of what would become a number of successful Dylan covers.
"With God On Our Side" is a song about the predisposition of people who claim that God is on their side. Its release coincided with the massive escalation of American involvement in Vietnam under Lyndon Johnson, and yet, it could not be more more relevant than it is today.
The contrast with Dylan’s version released a year earlier is striking. Dylan's recording is a typical folk lament - melancholic, almost cynical - with his acoustic guitar channeling the Woody Guthrie sound. Manfred Mann’s version, by contrast, begins with the solitary voice of Paul Jones and a 'hymn-like' piano accompaniment that slowly builds and adds instruments as the verses unfold. Manfred Mann shortened the track to 4:24 and removed the verse about Russia, though it's unclear whether this was for commercial or political reasons.
Ironically, about two decades later, and not without controversy, both Bob Dylan and Paul Jones would express very public Christian conversions, thus bringing another nuance to "With God on our Side".