Gospel Plow

Commentary

Gospel Plow, sometimes called Keep Your Hand on the Plow, is a very old traditional hymn. Here’s a nice version by Mahalia Jackson.

Dylan sings it as if it were a hard-driving blues tune. He sounds like Little Richard gone acoustic, which isn’t a good thing. Dylan biographer Robert Shelton calls it the least successful track on the album. I agree.

Shelton’s Dylan biography, No Direction Home, is a must-read, particularly for new Dylan fans. As a music critic with the New York Times during the early sixties, he witnessed the rise of Bob Dylan first-hand. The book drops off in quality after the early years but is still essential for understanding Dylan’s work.

Over time, Gospel Plow was rewritten into a political anthem. Keep Your Eyes on the Prize, was often sung at civil rights rallies in the sixties.

Here’s a rocking version by John Mellencamp at the White House. Before playing the song, he tells a compelling story about his own experience with discrimination.

A more traditional version by Pete Seeger.


Lyrics

Mary wore three links of chain
Every link was Jesus name
Keep your hand on that plow, hold on
Oh Lord, Oh Lord, keep your hand on that plow, hold on.

Mary, Mark, Luke and John
All these prophets so good and gone
Keep your hand on that plow, hold on
Oh Lord, Oh Lord, keep your hand on that plow, hold on.
Well, I never been to heaven
But I’ve been told streets up there
Are lined with gold
Keep your hand on that plow, hold on


Oh Lord, Oh Lord, keep your hand on that plow, hold on.
Oh Lord, Oh Lord, keep your hand on that plow, hold on.
Oh Lord, Oh Lord, keep your hand on that plow, hold on.

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