Gotta Serve Somebody

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"Gotta Serve Somebody"
Gotta Serve Somebody cover.jpg
Single by Bob Dylan
from the album Slow Train Coming
B-side"Trouble in Mind"
ReleasedAugust 20, 1979[1]
RecordedMay 4, 1979[1]
StudioMuscle Shoals Sound Studios
Songwriter(s)Bob Dylan
Producer(s)Jerry Wexler
Barry Beckett
Bob Dylan singles chronology
"Changing of the Guards"
"Gotta Serve Somebody"
"Precious Angel"
Audio sample
"Gotta Serve Somebody"

"Gotta Serve Somebody" is a song by Bob Dylan from his 1979 studio album Slow Train Coming.[4] It won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Male in 1979.[5]


The song was recorded in May of that year at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Sheffield, Alabama. The title never appears as such in the lyrics, though numerous mentions of "gonna serve somebody" come close. The B-side, "Trouble in Mind", was a Dylan original that was recorded for Slow Train Coming but was ultimately left off it.

In the final verse, Dylan makes a then-current but now obscure reference ("You may call me RJ, you may call me Ray"), paraphrasing the act of comedian Bill Saluga, who performed as "Raymond J. Johnson Jr."


As Dylan's first release during his "gospel" period, "Gotta Serve Somebody" was met with divisive reviews; John Lennon famously criticized the song and wrote a parody titled "Serve Yourself" in response.[6][7] Nevertheless, the single won the Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Male in 1979.[5] The effort is still Dylan's latest top 40 hit on the Hot 100, peaking at No. 24 and remaining on the chart for 12 weeks.[8][9] The song did best in Canada, where it spent two weeks at #23.[10] In 2016, Rolling Stone magazine featured the song as No. 43 on its list of "100 Greatest Bob Dylan Songs."[11]


Shortly after the song's release, Devo, in disguise as a Christian-based cover band, Dove, performed "Gotta Serve Somebody" regularly on the last leg of their Duty Now for the Future tour,[12] featuring Devo mascot Booji Boy on vocals, stating "We used to do devil music like that band Devo, but then Jerry (...) sat on a Bob Dylan record", parodying Dylan's recent conversion.[13]


  1. ^ a b Philippe Margotin; Jean-Michel Guesdon (27 October 2015). Bob Dylan All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track. Running Press. p. 645. ISBN 978-0-316-35353-3.
  2. ^ a b Cynthia A. Jarvis; E. Elizabeth Johnson (1 January 2015). Feasting on the Gospels: Chapters 1-9. Presbyterian Publishing Corp. p. 214. ISBN 978-0-664-23553-6.
  3. ^ a b Dave Henderson (1999). Touched by the Hand of Bob: Epiphanal Bob Dylan Experiences from a Buick Six. Black Book Company. p. 70. ISBN 978-1-902799-00-1.
  4. ^ "Gotta Serve Somebody | The Official Bob Dylan Site". Retrieved 2018-06-30.
  5. ^ a b "1979 - The 22nd Annual Grammy Awards -". Retrieved 2014-06-30.
  6. ^ "Remembering Bob Dylan and John Lennon's Wild '66 Limo Ride". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2018-06-30.
  7. ^ "John Lennon – Serve Yourself Acetate". Retrieved 2018-06-30.
  8. ^ "Readers' Poll: The 10 Worst Bob Dylan Songs". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  9. ^ "Bob Dylan Gotta Serve Somebody Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 2018-06-30.
  10. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". 1979-11-24. Retrieved 2020-10-17.
  11. ^ "100 Greatest Bob Dylan Songs". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2018-06-30.
  12. ^ "DEVO Live Guide - 1979". Retrieved 2020-01-18.
  13. ^ "Dove, the Band of Love – "Gotta Serve Somebody"". Retrieved 2020-01-18 – via YouTube.