Bob Dylan: Ballad of a Thin Man Meaning
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Ballad of a Thin Man Lyrics
With your 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 will say
When you get home
Because something is happening here
I have to agree with Anonymous, March 22, 2009. I remember this song when it was first released on the Highway 61 album. Guaranteed, if there is only 1 song you remember from that album, it is Ballad of a Thin Man. From the first hearing, I knew Dylan was talking about reporters and journalists trying to get to the "real meaning" of his songs. He played quite a game with them by his answers to their questions. Ballad of a Thin Man was the famous Dylan smirk to these people.
After changing from acoustic to electric guitar on his tour of England, Dylan received so much grief from media and fans alike. However, one reporter went too far and realy upset Dylan. This song is his reply to this reporter. The reporter accused Dylan of misleading and not caring about his fans. The lyrics say that the reporter doesnt really no anything about Dylan, neither does the fans. Dylan is showing them his soul (as portrayed by the naked man), yet, they still cant understand him (like the freaks in the song). So basically he is saying to the reporter: you think you know me, but you have no idea.
This song was during the English tour where Dylan was given a lot of grief for switching to electric and this reporter whose name I can't remember was the worst of all. This was Dylan's answer to him. This tour forms the old Otto Preminger movie Don't look back.
Sourav in India
anonymous Mar 22nd 2009 report
This song is about a reporter from the times magazine who no matter what you tell them they will make up their own words.
This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
You walk into the room
with your pencil in your hand
you see somebody naked and you ask
who is that man
you try so hard but you don't understand
just what you'll say when you get home
cause something is happening and you don't know what it is
do you, Mr. Jones....
My interpretation of this first verse is that Dylan is
somehow, in a metaphorical way, describing the dilemma
a returned Jesus would face.
you walk into the room (Jesus returns)
with your pencil in your hand (pencil here is a metaphor
for penis which in itself, in this context, is a metaphor
for what Jesus has in his hand...something like Sonny (James Caan) telling Clemenza that the gun should be hidden
in the bathroom by someone reliable or Michael (Al Pacino)
will walk out of the bathroom with just his penis in his hand. (Godfather)....
you see somebody naked...Jesus sees Himself, metaphorically naked, without the metahorical gun as in that Godfather
He questions who he is (don't we all?)
Mr. Jones is therefore a reference to Jesus
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