Lord protect my child: Bob Dylan takes a side step, just for a moment

By Tony Attwood

For me this is one of the few songs for which the definitive recording does not come from Bob himself.   If you know this song, you’ll know that I am referring to the Susan Tedeschi version.  If you don’t know it, do try it.

But first, here’s Bob, with the classic slow 12 bar blues.

Ms Tedeschi has been called a mix of Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin but if you get to hear her music you should also recognise her guitar style which seems to come from, well, everywhere at once.   The fact that everyone from John Mellencamp, to the Allman Brothers and then the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, invited her to open concerts tells you just how highly other musicians rate her.

Anyway, onto the song.  It is highly rated by those who have written about it – and so it should be, but that raises the issue of why it was not part of Infidels.  Two main reasons are given – one was Dylan was trying to avoid critics asking questions about which of his children this is about, and the other is because the song (not the lyrics) are highly derivative.

Now here I must admit failure.  I am not an aficionado of gospel music, but I do know this melody and chord sequence from elsewhere in the genre, and one day I will find it – or someone will point it out to me.  It is derivative, and I think this might be the real reason for leaving it off the album.

As for which of Bob’s children he’s talking about, it is unclear.

He’s young and he’s wild

but then also

As his youth now unfolds

And then again just a line or two later

Just to see him at play makes me smile

I think the run of the words is much more important to Bob that it being about one person, and I doubt that he was specifically talking about one of his children, but rather all his children. Or writing just about the feelings most parents have for all their children.  Interpreting individual lines as having an absolute meaning is a mug’s game with Dylan – and quite probably doubly so here.

But at the end Bob returns to quasi-religious themes, and that is the surprise really because of the context of what has just been written…

So I find it interesting that after those previous songs Bob should write this – it is out of context of what has gone before.  Especially with

There’ll be a time I hear tell
When all will be well
When God and man will be reconciled
But until men lose their chains
And righteousness reigns
Lord, protect my child

It must have been a great sentimental evening.  The only trouble is the reconciliation will come after Armageddon, and not too many of us will be left by then.

But aside from that, then we come to something quite remarkable – “Lord Protect my Child” by Dave Brubeck with Derek Trucks, who is…. Susan Tedeschi’s husband.  There is no reason why as a Dylan fan you might enjoy this; it is just that when I was learning my way around the piano all those centuries ago Dave Brubeck was one of the influences and it was a pleasant surprise to find this while I was working on my review of this song.

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  1. Round up the usual suspects:

    Rousseau: “Man is born free,and everywhere he is in chains”(Social Contract)-But until men lose their chains(Dylan)

    Eliot:”And indeed there will be time”(Prufrock)-
    There will be time, I hear tell (Dylan)

    Blake: “Bring me my arrows of desire/0 let the clouds unfold/Bring me my chariot of fire”(Jerusalem)-As his youth unfolds/…..He’s young
    and on fire/ Full of hope and desire(Dylan)

    Reworked references to these writers are quite often observed within Dylan’s lyrics.

  2. I love the song, regardless of its origin. If Susan Tesdeschi wrote it, bravo. I love it,whatever it is analyzed to mean. K

  3. Why is not the Lyrics included in the giant “Lyrics since 1962”?
    What DO you think?


    Rolf Säfström

  4. If it has not already been identified I can say that the chord progression and melody line follows closely a blues version of Amazing Grace.
    I was playing the Dylan song and really getting into it when it hit me and I began singing a bluesy style of Amazing Grace and it fit every point. That was when I knew this was the basis for the progression and melody.

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