Tryin’ to get to heaven before they close the door – Osborne’s tribute to Dylan

Joan Osborne is an under-appreciated singer, songwriter, who is best known for her song “If God was one of us.” Bob Dylan, of course, is a Nobel Laureate who can also write compelling music to go with his beautifully scripted words.

My wife and I traveled to Atlanta to see Osborne sing a host of Dylan’s songs in tribute. She also has produced a CD of such songs. Osborne has a sensual and sensuous style in her singing that adds seasoning to Dylan’s music. She also hand-picked songs that resonated with her, selecting some deeper cuts, a few of which we did not know.

Here are some of the highlights:

“Buckets of Rain” – She said Dylan wrote several love songs that do not get acclaim.   We were unfamiliar with this one, but it is a  treat live and as a recording,

“Tangled up in Blue” – This is my favorite Dylan song and she did more than justice to it. Her pacing and style revealed the saga portrayed by Dylan’s words.

“Highway 61 Revisited” – This is a great song, but an even better one live. She makes it more human, beginning with the example of Abraham.

“Quinn the Eskimo” – Many people do not know Dylan wrote this classic. She opened her show with this one, so we, had to think for a second.

“Tryin’ to get to Heaven” – This was my favorite version of a Dylan song. She accentuated with a strategic pause each time “before they close the door.”

“Gotta Serve Somebody” – She excelled on this classic Dylan song. It was much more sensual and bluesy than Dylan could offer with his singing.

“Masters of War” – This was another Dylan song which was unfamiliar to us, but it is classic Dylan in protest chastising those who say you can win a war without costs.

“Don’t think twice, it’s alright” – When I think of this one, I think of Peter, Paul and Mary paying homage to Dylan. She covered it well.

She did not sing these songs during the concert, but she includes them in her CD. “Dark Eyes”
“You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go”
“Rainy Day Women”

She probably dropped them as she sang a couple of songs she has yet to release. If you do not know Osborne, download or purchase her CDs. “Relish” is her second CD which won a Grammy. Our favorite is “Righteous Love,” which we saw her perform on Austin City Limits. Or, just buy her “Songs of Bob Dylan” CD.

Since it was a small venue, we got a chance to speak with her afterwards. She is very gracious and down-to-earth. And, definitely worth the listening.


Joan Osborne – more than if God was one of us

Back in the 1990s, Joan Osborne became a sensation with a soulful, heartfelt rendition of the song “One of us” penned by Eric Bazilian. The chorus goes as follows:

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make His way home

The song caused a stir, but many felt like I do, that it was an attempt to make God more real to more people. I found it moving. While this may have been her biggest hit, it would truly sell her short if she is only remembered for this one song. My wife and I enjoy her many songs, especially from the album “Righteous Love.” If you only had one CD to buy to get a real sense of what she is all about it would be this album.

One of my favorites of hers is a cover of Bob Dylan’s song “Make you feel my love.” Here is sample lyric from Dylan’s song, which she sang better than any other cover.

I’d go hungry, I’d go black and blue
I’d go crawling down the avenue
Oh there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
To make you feel my love
There are several great songs off this album. One of our favorites is “Baby Love” written by Osborne, Jack Petruzzelli, Erik della Penna, & Rainy Orteca. Here is a provocative lyric from the song, which leaves little to the imagination:


Take me in your fist
Prove to me that you exist
Be as plain as day
Watch my body melt away
There in black and white
Victim of my appetite
Make me understand
Do you want to be the man

“Angel Face” written by Osborne and Joseph Lyburn Arthur is also a straightforward song. Maybe that is a reason we like her so much, as she sings evocative and provocative songs in a soulful style which she arcs to the song. Here are some lyrics from Angel Face:

I was a woman
I was a mother
Woke in a fever from what I’ve been under
You made my heart beat
Like God made the thunder

I was struck down by your angel face

Another interesting song of hers is “Hurricane” written by Osborne, Petruzelli, della Penna and Mike Manzini. Here is the final chorus from the song, which to me is the rush to satisfy a lust, which is the only Novocaine to numb the intense feelings.

Like a hurricane
In the face of the wind and the rain
Like a hurricane
When you open you open a vein
Give me more give me more Novocaine

If you have not heard Osborne sing or only remember her for the “One of us” song, look into her work. Whether she is covering someone else’s songs or her own, she brings a unique style. There are numerous videos on these songs, but check out Bob Dylan’s song to see if you like her style. She is touring smaller venues now, so she may be coming near you soon. You will be in for a treat.