|"Gotta Serve Somebody"|
|Single by Bob Dylan|
|from the album Slow Train Coming|
|"Trouble in Mind"|
|Released||August 20, 1979|
|Recorded||May 4, 1979|
Muscle Shoals Sound Studios
|Bob Dylan singles chronology|
"Gotta Serve Somebody"
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. Nevertheless, the single won the Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Male in 1979. The effort is still Dylan's latest top 40 hit on the Hot 100, peaking at #24 and remaining on the chart for 12 weeks. In 2016, Rolling Stone magazine featured the song as #43 on its list of "100 Greatest Bob Dylan Songs."
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, 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.