Clinton Heylin, in Behind the Shades, calls it “truly awful”. If we’re just taking the lyrics, then yea, pretty lame, or at least nothing noteworthy. Although the lyrics certainly foreshadow Dylan’s heavily religious works in the 80s.
Josh Gibbens, in The Nightingale’s Code, interestingly notes the Dylan keeps getting the verb conjugation “wrong”, and is perhaps mimicking the bible, where god is sometimes singular and sometimes plural.
The music is another story. It’s another piano song, like many on New Morning. It’s a nice performance; it rocks without electricity. I could see it transformed into a real rave-up live, but it’s never been played.
The song was written for an Archibald MacLeish play, like several New Morning songs. Dylan is quoted in the Biograph notes that MacLeish didn’t like Father of Night, and that’s why Dylan backed-out of the production. I can see why a writer might not like the bland lyrics.
Some argue that this song has a connection to a Jewish prayer(s), which they also argue, makes sense because Dylan was supposedly studying Judaism at the time. Could be, although the ordinary Christina connection (“Our father who art in heaven”) seems a much simpler explanation.
Manfred Mann, who made a career of doing covers of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen songs, combined a bit of hymnal music and pychcodehlic heavy metal. Not bad.
Kinda cool live version.
Tim O’Brien did some nice bluegrass covers of Dylan songs.
Father of night, Father of day
Father, who taketh the darkness away
Father, who teacheth the bird to fly
Builder of rainbows up in the sky
Father of loneliness and pain
Father of love and Father of rain
Father of day, Father of night
Father of black, Father of white
Father, who build the mountain so high
Who shapeth the cloud up in the sky
Father of time, Father of dreams
Father, who turneth the rivers and streams
Father of grain, Father of wheat
Father of cold and Father of heat
Father of air and Father of trees
Who dwells in our hearts and our memories
Father of minutes, Father of days
Father of whom we most solemnly praise