Five greatest political songs from Bob Dylan

Dylan specialized in make art from politics.
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The same year, one album later, “The Ballad of a Thin Man” is Dylan at his most cryptic and his most haunting. The haunting part comes from Dylan’s apocalyptic piano chords which open the song, backed by the eerie echoes of Al Kooper’s swirling organ. The cryptic part comes from the lyrics.

“You walk into the room – With a pencil in your hand – You see somebody naked – And you say ‘Who is that man?” – You try so hard – But you don’t understand – Just what you’ll say when you get home…” The verse ends, as do all seven of them, with the refrain “Because something is happening here and you don’t know what it is – Do you, Mr. Jones?”

The questions from the hallucinatory lyrics abound. At one point, a one-eyed midget demands that Mr. Jones provide him with milk. At another point, a sword-swallower returns Mr. Jones’ throat to him after using it – well, I suppose to swallow a sword. The fact is, Dylan puts us squarely in Mr. Jones’ shoes.

Like him, we don’t really know what is going on, but we know something is happening here. This was a sophisticated put down of the culture’s elders, who have nominal control over how everything functions, but who are clearly blind to what is bubbling under the surface. Who exactly is Mr. Jones? It has been debated quite a bit. Dylan says it was based on a real person. More than fifty years later, it doesn’t really matter. By this point, we all have some Mr. Jones inside us.