The Ancient of Days (1794);
William Blake, Relief etching with watercolor, 23.3 x 16.8 cm; British Museum, London
. UK.

A website concerned with the Bob Dylan song "Every Grain of Sand" (1981).

The Hand of God
from the North side, Muiredach's Cross, Monasterboice, Co. Louth, Ireland


Every Grain of Sand was written by Bob Dylan and first released on the album Shot of Love which was released on August 12, 1981.

This version also appeared on Biograph released on November 7, 1985. This version has the "reality of man" in the penultimate line.

Another version apparently recorded as a demo was included on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 on March 26, 1991. This version has "a perfect finished plan" in the penultimate line. It also has the barking dog described by Michael Gray as "the best vocal on the track".



Omaha, Nebraska, USA
Nov 3, 2012


Herman: There's a song on Shot Of Love, Every Grain Of Sand, which is about as a healing song as I ever heard from you. It's a beautiful, beautiful song.
Dylan: Oh, yeah, I wrote that last summer.
Herman: Is that what you mean by hopefully healing music?
Dylan: I would hope so.

The Dave Herman Interview, London, July 2 1981.
Full Text

"That was an inspired song that came to me," said Dylan. "It wasn't really too difficult. I felt like I was just putting words down that were coming from somewhere else, and I just stuck it out."

Interview with Cameron Crowe (Biograph Booklet 1985)

Despite our preferring the modern intelligence and fractured sensibility - the non-submission to any traditional authority - of something like "Visions of Johanna", so well does "Every Grain of Sand" live and breathe that when, on "Biograph", the running-order gives us the full push-to-the-edge, follow-that! of a live 1966 "Visions of Johanna", and then what has to follow it is the 1981 studio cut of "Every Grain of Sand", the stately 1980s song holds its own. That's some achievement.

Michael Gray - Song and Dance Man 111 : The Art of Bob Dylan (London and New York 2000)

It's one of the most moving lyrics Dylan's ever written - a self-portrait of isolation, even desolation, an admission of failure in a lifetime attempt at coming to terms with what he calls "The Reality of Man" and, perhaps, a confession of spiritual doubt in what is described in the opening line as "the hour of my deepest need." The consolation that he offers himself in the song - the Biblical reassurance that "every hair is numbered," that there's providence in the fall of a sparrow, that the world is governed by, as he wrote in the song's alternative penultimate line, "a perfect finished plan" - seems convincing enough compensation for the pains of the journey through the vale of tears.

John Bauldie - The Bootleg Series 1-111 Booklet (1991)


The love in "Every Grain of Sand," though firmly rooted in Dylan's conversion experience and his Bible studies, immediately and obviously reaches beyond its context to communicate a deeply-felt devotional spirit based on universal experiences: pain of self-awareness, and sense of wonder or awe at the beauty of the natural world.
The song is about the moment(s) in which we accept our pain and vulnerability and bow down before (and are lifted up by) the will of God.
"Every Grain of Sand" cuts through doctrine and proselytizing and speaks directly to the listener's need.

Paul Williams - Bob Dylan Performing Artist, The Middle Years (London 1994)

Text and References
Live Performances


Other Links

Bible Texts
Markus Prieur - Not Dark Yet
Kees de Graaf commentary on Every Grain of Sand
Every Grain Of Sand: A Perfect Finished Plan, by Dave Thomas (Bob Dylan Critical Corner article)
Gotta Serve Somebody Page
How to Listen to Dylan
Muiredach's High Cross
Slow Train Coming Page
Dylan Code - An Ear to Hear
Website by Michael Farry.

Email Me with your thoughts on the song or suggestions for the site